Tuttle Creek Lake may be gradually decreasing, but the lake is still a bad rainstorm away from bringing back flooding as a significant concern, officials said Monday.
The lake level read 1,134.56 feet above sea level Monday morning. That’s down 1.32 feet since Friday night. However, it’s still 59.5 feet above its normal level.
Pat Collins, Riley County emergency management director, told the Riley County Commission on Monday that emergency personnel were scaling back emergency readiness efforts, including a reduction in operating hours at the local Emergency Operations Center, but officials will be on standby for a full emergency response.
“The water is going down, but we’re still not out of the woods yet,” Collin said. “I guess what I tell people is that in ’93, we saw this three different times before it actually got high enough to cause major damage. But we got over this hump.”
Outflows from Tuttle Creek Lake were finally lower than inflows over the weekend, causing the decrease. Lake officials had kept releases from the lake to a maximum of 200 cubic feet of water per second for weeks due to flooding concerns downstream as measured by a gauge on the Missouri River in Waverly, Missouri.
But last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers drastically increased releases as the lake reached 1,135.88 feet Friday night, just inches short of the top of the dam’s emergency spillway gates.
Lake officials said Monday that they had obtained permission for a “temporary deviation” from outflow restrictions, and that they expect to maintain releases at 30,000 cfs with the goal of lowering the lake to 1,128 feet, or about 80% of the lake’s flood storage pool.
The deviation also applies to Milford Lake and Perry Lake, which have outflows of 4,000 cfs and 10,000 cfs, respectively.
Brian McNulty, project operations manager for the Corps at Tuttle, said the lake is projected to reach 1,128 feet by mid- to late-next week depending on rainfall.
All releases have been from the dam’s stilling basin (also known as “the tubes”). Lake officials have said they would only use the dam’s emergency spillway gates if the lake threatened to overtop the gates.
After four tense days, officials lifted an evacuation advisory on the Northview neighborhood Sunday, and an American Red Cross shelter set up for affected residents closed Monday morning. The Northview area remains under a high water advisory.
RCPD Capt. Richard Fink said the department was not aware of any residential structures or city roadways that were affected by flooding, but that there was water on certain properties. The department will keep all of its emergency management assets in place.
“Folks should still stay vigilant,” Fink said. “If you live in a flood zone, this is more time to prepare, and if it doesn’t happen, good, but it still could. One good rainstorm could still put us up in a critical area once again.”
Fink said that while all officers and most first responders take emergency management training, nothing compares to practicing it in real life.
“Taking tests and doing tabletop exercises only does so much,” Fink said. “This was a learning experience for a lot of people, and I don’t think we could be any more ready for something like this in the future.”