Wappapello Lake surpasses projections; new crest predicted at 384 feet on Friday

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 ~ Updated 1:19 PM

With nearly 14 inches of rain in four days and more predicted, the water level at Wappapello Lake on the St. Francis River has already surpassed the projected crest. Prior to the additional rainfall Monday evening, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at St. Louis, Mo., issued a news release saying the crest would be 384 feet on Friday.

Wappapello Lake Operations Manager Cindy Jackson said the water level was at 385.45 at 9:30 a.m. today.

"We are releasing the maximum 10,000 CFS," Jackson said.

In 2008, Wappapello Lake crested at 389.01 feet on April 12.

Jackson said the lake is now expected to crest Friday at 394 feet without any additional rain.

"The top of the spillway is 394.74 feet," said Jackson, who will meet with Corps emergency management officials at 2 today.

The Black River rose to 21.41 feet at 4:45 a.m. today at Poplar Bluff before falling slightly to 21.29 at 8:15 a.m., according to the National Weather Service at Paducah, Ky.

The record crest was 22.15 feet on March 20, 2008. The 21.41 level, which is 5.4 feet over the 16-foot flood stage, is the third highest. It reached 21.68 feet on Dec. 4, 1982.

"With more rain coming, it could spike again," Meteorologist David Humphrey said today.

Flooding was widespread as the river overflowed levees in numerous places between Poplar Bluff and the Qulin area. With floodwaters spreading out all over southern Butler County, the water level at Poplar Bluff dropped slightly.

The 2008 flood was called a 100-year flood. No one expected another 100-year flood three years later.

Rainfall reported the NWS at the Poplar Bluff Municipal Airport totaled 1.54 inches Friday, 3.48 inches Saturday, 2.37 inches Sunday and 6.46 inches Monday. In 2008, the Poplar Bluff area received in excess of 12 inches on March 18 and 19.

The water level of Clearwater Lake on the Black River has increased nearly 14 feet in the past 24 hours. It was at 542.36 feet at 7:30 a.m. today.

"Late Friday, we basically shut down the outflow at the dam. We're holding back all we can," U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Operations Manager Tim Dunn said. "We are at minimum flow and have no releases planned. The dam is fine. We have plenty more storage in the lake."

In 2008, Clearwater Lake crested at 563.03 feet on April 15.

Three Rivers College and most area schools were closed today and Monday.

Numerous state and county roads are closed, leaving many residents stranded. Additional roads closed as floodwaters continued to rise Monday.

Highways 53, 142 and 158 are closed in Butler County, along with sections of Routes B, BB, HH, N, W and WW, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation.

The U.S. 60 bypass is still open, but floodwaters are nearing the highway in the low area between the Black River bridge and the bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad.

MoDOT Resident Engineer Steve Bubanovich said "the water will have to rise another two feet before we would have to close Bypass 60 or Business 60."

A U.S. Geological Survey crew from the Missouri Water Science Center in Rolla, Mo., was at the Bypass 60 bridge.

"We mobilized a crew to make flow measurements on the Black River. These measurements are used for many different things, including levee design," said Paul H. Rydlund Jr., supervisory hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

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