Army Corps warns Augusta of rapidly rising Savannah River

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 3:59 PM
Last updated Friday, July 12, 2013 9:09 AM
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A rapid, two-foot rise in an already rain-swollen Savannah River was forecast Wednesday as the Army Corps of Engineers released more floodwaters from Thurmond Lake and its sister reservoirs upstream.

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Floodwaters rise in a yard in the Ashton Woods subdivision in Columbia County.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
Floodwaters rise in a yard in the Ashton Woods subdivision in Columbia County.

All three lakes were above full pool and approaching the top of their flood storage elevations, the corps said. Releases at Thurmond Dam were pushed from 25,000 to 37,000 cubic feet per second at noon Wednesday.

“Combined with localized inflows below Thurmond dam, the river flow near Augusta could reach flows as high as 45,000 (cubic feet per second),” the corps said, adding that those flows could increase the river level along downtown Augusta to 117 feet above sea level – or three feet above the area’s normal full pool.

The increases were made necessary by heavy rains and also the potential for more precipitation from Tropical Storm Chantal, which has been downgraded to a tropical wave but still could spawn torrential rains.

“Last night’s rain event contributes to the extraordinary volume of rainfall observed in the last 10 days, approaching nearly 600 percent of average for this time of year,” the corps said.

Potentially hazardous conditions resulting from high water and increased flows include floating debris, submerged retaining walls and higher river velocity downstream of Thurmond Dam. Additional flooding is also expected in the New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam Park and at Fury’s Ferry.

Because of the high water, which is expected to persist for several weeks, the 28th annual Augusta Southern Nationals dragboat races, which had been scheduled for July 19-21, were canceled Wednesday over safety concerns.

The races are typically held when the river’s flow is about 7,000 cubic feet per second, but current flows are 40,000 cubic feet per second and the Army Corps of Engineers forecast indicates high water will persist for the next several weeks.

The river’s rise Wednesday pushed its elevation above the point where New Savannah Bluff Lock and Dam helps regulate the pool along downtown Augusta, said Shawn Rosenquist, a research scientist with the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy.

“When it gets to that point, it’s less like a reservoir downtown and more like a river,” he said, and subsequent increases in elevation will be equal above and below the dam.

Although rivers and streams are overflowing, the Augusta Canal’s water levels are expected to stay roughly the same when the river floods, said Dayton Sherrouse, the Canal Authority’s executive director.

“It’s still a balancing act,” he said.

Most of the canal’s flow comes in from the headgates that adjoin the river, but three main tributaries – Rae’s, Reed and Rock creeks – all empty into the canal downstream from those headgates. So if those creeks are flooding and adding flow to the canal, the headgates are adjusted to allow less river water and maintain a relatively steady flow, he said.

Meanwhile, the corps closed most boat ramps and courtesy docks – and some campgrounds and recreation areas – at Lake Hartwell because of rising floodwaters.

At Lake Russell, all beaches were closed and electric power was removed from a gas dock and 80 slip docks in Beaver Dam.

Although the accelerated releases from Thurmond Dam are being conducted through the turbines and not the spillway gates, corps officials still plan to hold their scheduled floodgate tests this week at all three dams.

In both Augusta and Columbia County, flash flooding was reported Wednesday as new storms dumped 2 to 3 additional inches of rain in the already saturated area.

Mie Lucas, of the Richmond County Emergency Management Office, advised residents to stay away from Lock and Dam Park, which is flooded, and also advised that the new Baurle Boat Ramp below New Savannah Bluff is under water and unusable.

People near Butler Creek, in the Windsor Spring and Meadowbrook area, should monitor conditions and make any necessary preparations for flooding, she said. Affected areas include Salem Arms, Caddenwoods, Rosier Road on the Butler Creek side and Elliott Boulevard.

Riverwalk Augusta’s lower walking paths and marina will remain closed until it is deemed safe to access those areas.

People are strongly encouraged not to go into any area that has standing water.

In Columbia County, floodwaters submerged streets and intersections, sinkholes were reported in two subdivisions and two houses were struck by lightning, said Pam Tucker, the director of Columbia County’s Emergency & Operations Division.

Comments (24) Add comment
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nocnoc
49694
Points
nocnoc 07/10/13 - 03:08 pm
10
0
May Be A Great Opportunity

to see how the drainage Bowl effect works for those supporting the levee removal.

Since the Riverwalk lower walking paths and Marina area, from 8th Street to the Marina, will be underwater and closed or until safe.

We won't have any Riverwalk Crime issues either.

just an opinion
2951
Points
just an opinion 07/11/13 - 09:57 am
11
2
THE CORP SHOULD HOLD OFF ON ITS TEST OF 40,000 cubic ft per sec

We are having a natural flooding event. Why make matters worse with a man-made flood one as well right now? Hold the water back at the lake and POSTPONE THIS TEST. Flooding up there will not hurt anything but flooding people's homes will!

Tryme
80
Points
Tryme 07/10/13 - 08:29 pm
7
1
KNUCKLE HEADS!

No one saw this coming!? Thanks Corp of Engineers!! Bunch of overpaid dumbos!!!

mosovich
858
Points
mosovich 07/10/13 - 09:19 pm
4
2
Hey, you live..

along a river you take that risk.. Of course I'm sure all the people in the high dollar Hammonds Ferry will be up in arms, but hey, no one made them build along the river in a flood plain..

dichotomy
37642
Points
dichotomy 07/10/13 - 10:40 pm
7
1
I think it's funny as hell

I think it's funny as hell that we have had all of this rain right after the flurry of all of the "let's tear down the levy" articles and letters in the Chronicle. Maybe we should bring it back up for discussion next week.

itsanotherday1
48419
Points
itsanotherday1 07/10/13 - 11:07 pm
4
4
Let's discuss it now. Tear

Let's discuss it now. Tear the thing down; this event comes no where near flooding downtown.

OJP
7779
Points
OJP 07/10/13 - 11:17 pm
2
1
I've generally supported removal of the levee.

But this is a good example of a strong counter argument.

Another posters pointed out that the lakes may be able to hold quite a bit more water. Does anyone know if that is true?

I guess Plan B is to build the storefronts up to the levee's level.

noxiousfumes
493
Points
noxiousfumes 07/10/13 - 11:20 pm
4
0
I'm a little concerned. I

I'm a little concerned. I have lived here most of my life and I have never seen the river this high. The creek near my house hasn't been this high since I was a child back in the 60's. If you haven't been downtown, go across the Gordon Hwy or 5th St bridge and see for yourself.

Young Fred
21146
Points
Young Fred 07/10/13 - 11:21 pm
4
1
Mother Nature is a, well

Mother Nature is a, well let's just say she's unpredictable.

Of course the corps of engineers should be doing the most to make this as painless as possible - right? Rrrriiiight.

LeConteSkier
567
Points
LeConteSkier 07/11/13 - 12:34 am
8
0
Hate to be the bear of bad

Hate to be the bear of bad news but this is what happens when you strip acres of its trees and build build built not allowing adequate green space to absorb flood waters. Case in point. when was the last time Aiken flooded other than minor street flooding. It is amazing what planned green space does in protecting houses and areas during floods.

LeConteSkier
567
Points
LeConteSkier 07/11/13 - 01:06 am
4
0
Ojp! Actually that wouldn't

Ojp! Actually that wouldn't be such a bad idea! Build store fronts up to levy levels! Downtown train problem solved! Similar to how Atlanta built above their old city.

nocnoc
49694
Points
nocnoc 07/11/13 - 05:27 am
3
0
As a kid and Teen I have seen the River high

I know I am in disagreement for some fellow bloggers here.

But what is now the 5th st. Marina I have seen several times underwater and the river up several feet of the levee bank in that area.

While I see the levee as an eye sore the way it was constructed and tourist levee improvements could be done from 10th down to 5th street.

It still serves a general purpose until it can be fixed.

If water does back up or can backup maybe ARC needs to do 1 of 3 things.

Buy pumps like New Orleans

Dig a new canal for drainage ☺and tourism, boat rides.
Here would be 100's of shovel ready jobs ☺☺☺☺☺☺

or do like

Valmeyer, Illinois
Move Downtown and out towards Walton way, which would be a hoot to see the panic at the suggestion at the ARC council meeting .

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 07/11/13 - 07:02 am
2
1
Levee

I'm glad they didn't tear the levee down. It's useful, it's historic, it's scenic. Building the storefronts up to levee level worked for Morris Museum of Art, for the Augusta Marriott hotel, and for Port Royal. The other businesses on the dry side of the levee need to invest in that approach instead of waiting for the Corps of Engineers to tear down the levee (which belongs to the city and not the corps, anyway).

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 07/11/13 - 07:03 am
2
1
Research

Whenever Grooo gets around to building their research center on the former Golf Hall of Fame property, they will naturally build it up to levee level and get some great views out over the water.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 07/11/13 - 07:15 am
0
0
Flood Stage

Hey, does anybody know whether the Oconee River is above flood stage below Wallace Dam?

bdouglas
5782
Points
bdouglas 07/11/13 - 07:46 am
3
0
@LeConteSkier

While it's a good thought to say that Aiken doesn't have flooding issues due to the amount of greenspace there, the fact remains that the city of Aiken (515 ft) is nearly 400 feet higher in elevation than the city of Augusta (136 ft). I'm quite certain it has much more to do with that than it does greenspace.

While I don't disagree with building shops up to levee level being a good idea, calling the levee 'scenic' is quite a stretch. When I moved here almost 20 years ago it was scenic. Now it mostly serves to block the view of the poorly maintained Riverwalk areas from view of the rest of downtown. And I wouldn't exactly say that building shops up to levee level "worked" for Port Royal... Still not a bad idea as long as the execution is right.

itsanotherday1
48419
Points
itsanotherday1 07/11/13 - 09:22 am
0
1
Trusting bdouglas's numbers,

Trusting bdouglas's numbers, Augusta is +136 ft MSL. The NEW (after more upstream releases) level for the river is expected to be + 117 MSL.

Even with the historic rains we've had, the river would have to rise another 19 feet to START flooding the city. C'mon folks, use your noodle. The flooding at the docks I have seen before at least two or three times, and it is not out of its banks there, just over a road that is lower than the banks. Go down to Prep Phillips drive if you want to see the true picture, as that land sits between the levee and the river. It is high, but a long ways to go before flowing over the banks.

You will convince me the levee still has a function when I see water up against it in those flat areas. Again, with the historic rainfall we've had, it is no where near that.

itsanotherday1
48419
Points
itsanotherday1 07/11/13 - 09:44 am
0
1
Google Earth

I just launched it to check the numbers. Everything along Reynolds Street registers + 143-148 ft MSL, including the 8th street plaza. The river says 114. Even considering GE may not be super accurate, the difference in elevation is too significant to argue the levee is doing any good.

dwb619
104803
Points
dwb619 07/11/13 - 04:43 pm
1
0
335

I believe Clark Hill maximum storage level is 335 feet. Also, I believe Hartwell is 665 feet. Hartwell is at 664.45 now and discharging thru flood gates. Clark Hill is at 332.2 and I suppose are discharging thru gates also.
Upon an onsite visual inspection at At 3:45 pm the road to Fury Ferry boat landing was within 2-3 inches to being awash. 4:15 pm Clark Hill was not discharging thru the gates.

Fiat_Lux
16445
Points
Fiat_Lux 07/11/13 - 10:18 am
1
0
Actually, regarding removal of the levee...

I'm far more concerned about being protected from a dam failure than flooding due to rain. With the management possibilities, I'm not overly concerned about relentless rainfall. Having Clarks Hill Dam give way, however, would be a genuine disaster for us.

Not that I expect that to happen, but it's like an airliner crash: highly improbably but if it happens everybody generally dies.

Sweet son
11763
Points
Sweet son 07/11/13 - 10:46 am
0
0
Darby
29487
Points
Darby 07/11/13 - 10:47 am
2
0
"Water all the way up to the mountains effects

the river here in Augusta. 5Five feet above pool and the damn (sic) is in trouble. This will teach those folks in NA along the river what a levee is for!"

Yeah! That's what this is all about. Teaching those dummies in North Augusta a lesson.

Good thinking!

PhiloPublius
386
Points
PhiloPublius 07/11/13 - 01:20 pm
1
1
EVERYBODY PANIC!!!

... Geeze calm down people... we will be fine...

bdouglas
5782
Points
bdouglas 07/11/13 - 01:43 pm
1
0
The 136 ft level I quoted was

The 136 ft level I quoted was from the City of Augusta website. No telling where that measurement was taken or if it's some sort of average. ( http://www.augustaga.gov/index.aspx?nid=399 ) Then again, one could also question their accuracy when Fort Discovery, the Cotton Exchange, the GGHOF and the Augusta Golf & Gardens are all still listed as attractions.

Sometimes I wonder what our landscape all along the Savannah would look like if we didn't build all the locks, dams and levees. We can influence mother nature and try to direct her flows all we want to, but in the end she'll always have her way somehow.

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