It’s heartening to see the level of Tuttle Creek Reservoir drop a little.
The lake is down a couple of feet, meaning there’s no imminent threat of flooding. It had neared the absolute limit of its capacity toward the end of last week, meaning that the people running the reservoir would be forced to open the spillway gates to let water out if any more came in.
A break in the rain, combined with the roaring releases out the outlet tubes, has helped the lake’s level dip. That level is measured in “feet above sea level,” and it currently stands at about 1,133 feet. The capacity is at 1,136 feet. Normally, the lake is at 1,075 feet.
While that’s heartening, residents would be wise to continue to assume that flooding is still likely. The lake is 59 feet high, just a couple of feet from its capacity, and we’re barely into June.
Remember, June is typically the rainiest month of the year, and the big floods of 1951 and 1993 occurred in mid-July. Big rains could easily overwhelm the capacity of the tubes to keep up, and so the spillway gates would have to open.
Fortunately, local officials are well-prepared, and we have to assume that residents in flood-prone areas are, too. Everyone has managed the current situation well.
The thing is, it’s easy to get fatigued by stress, and we humans are generally psychologically predisposed to assume that the trend of the moment will go on forever. When it’s dry and the level is dropping, we figure that means the crisis is over.
The crisis is not over. Big thunderstorms are coming. A 3-inch rain is going to happen. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has to manage a big system of levees, and it has to keep an eye on the Missouri River, and that means it’s not going to keep running the tubes full blast all summer. The lake is liable to remain extremely high, and those big storms will push the limits, at least.
We’re thankful for the good fortune and hard work thus far. But let’s not fall asleep at the switch.