"We're halfway to last February's record rainfall in the Wolf Creek watershed and not halfway through this February."
Randy Kerr, civil engineer in the Water Resources Section, Hydrology and Hydraulics Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, continued: "We're trending in that direction (toward last February's devastating high lake levels that heavily damaged recreational areas along Lake Cumberland).
During last February, according to Kerr, 12.3 inches of rain fell in the Wolf Creek watershed, sending the level of Lake Cumberland 33 feet above the tree line, some 4 feet higher than it had ever been. High water encroached upon recreational areas along the lake inflicting heavy damage. Several recreational areas delayed opening last summer and Bee Rock Campground near Mt. Victory was closed during the entire 2019 tourist season.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), 6.5 inches of rain have fallen so far this February in Wolf Creek watershed, Kerr said. Lake Cumberland, as of 11 a.m. yesterday, was at level 718.28 feet above sea level and rising at the rate of 0.16 of a foot an hour. At that rate, the lake will rise a foot in about six hours and about 4 feet a day. More than 26,000 cubic feet of water a second were being released through Wolf Creek Dam and the lake as of noon yesterday was about 5 feet below the tree line and rising.
Cumberland River which flows into Lake Cumberland is still in flood stage and is expected to stay above flood stage until Saturday, according to Dustin Jordan, meteorologist at National Weather Service at Jackson. Several areas in southeastern Kentucky are dealing with flooded conditions.
"I don't expect to get a break in the rain until the weekend and early next week
... when the weather gets colder," Jordan said. Rain, heavy at times, is expected today (Wednesday) and tonight with new amounts up to 2 inches.
Normal operation of Lake Cumberland is governed by what the Corps calls the SEPA (Southeastern Power Administration) curve. Southeastern Power Administration markets hydroelectric power generated at Wolf Creek Dam. SEPA curve dictates the lake start rising from winter pool (about 700 feet above sea level) in February and reach summer pool about 723 feet at the tree line May 15.
Kerr said if the lake level is pushed higher by heavy rains " ... we try to draw it down to the SEPA curve ... unless, say it's at 723 in April we would leave it that way."
High lake levels last spring delayed relocating the popular beach at Pulaski County Park. County government is moving the beach area to the other side of the boat ramp and courtesy dock and the work must be done while the lake level is near winter pool. Judge-Executive Steve Kelly could not be contacted concerning effects of the rising lake on the beach project.