By MJ Kneiser, WLHR Radio, Hartwell
Corps officials say that continuing rains are resulting in increased water releases from Lake Hartwell.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it opened the spillway gates at the Hartwell Dam Tuesday morning in order to lower the reservoir to below 665 feet above mean sea level, the top of the spillway gates.
According to Corps Spokesman Billy Birdwell, heavy rains Monday night in the Hartwell basin further inundated an already full lake.
Birdwell went on to say that the Corps is also monitoring closely the tropical storm now in the Caribbean, which could impact weather in the area and bring even more rain.
According to the Corps, water will be released from all of the reservoirs until they are back at their “full pool” level. In the case of Hartwell, that is 660 feet above mean sea level.
This comes after Lake Hartwell approached historic levels Monday night and Tuesday morning, with the National Weather Service in Greenville-Spartanburg announcing that the lake had reached flood stage.
Weather Service Meteorologist Justin Lane said the National Weather Service considers flood stage at Hartwell to be 665 feet above mean sea level, or five feet above full pool.
Lane said the National Weather Service has two gauges on the lake to measure lake levels and he says both gauges, one on the Georgia side at Hartwell Dam and the other on the South Carolina side in Anderson indicated the lake reached flood stage.
According to Lane, problems occur with streams and rivers overflowing their banks occur at the 665-foot level.
“The reason we established that (level) as flood stage is because a lot of our lakes and streams start to overflow their banks and some of the docks will start to get submerged on the lake side,” said Lane.
But what does this mean for communities surrounding the lake?
Lane said for there to be any major impact on Hartwell and surrounding areas, the lake level would have to rise much higher.
“I think major flooding is considered about 680 feet above mean sea level and the lake has never been anywhere close to that level,” said Lane. “So that is purely theoretical as to when we think major flooding would occur and we are not getting anywhere close to that.”
However, Lane added the National Weather Service had never before designated the lake as reaching flood stage.
Meanwhile, the Corps of Engineers did say that planned spillway gate safety checks today at Hartwell Dam will go on as scheduled.