Lake Wappapello receding

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Water is still everywhere, and although it appears to be receding it will take at least two weeks before lake and river levels get back to what can be considered normal.

Lake Wappapello crested Sunday and since then has dropped from 395.13 feet to 394.89 feet Monday morning, "which is a good sign," said Cindy Jackson, assistant operations manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the lake.

"We're hoping we have no more rain," she said. "Nice, warm sunny days are helping to dry out things."

The National Weather Service office in Paducah, Ky., reported there is no rain in the forecast until Friday.

Sandbags kept the water from going over the spillway, but the water did creep 1 1/2 inches up the sandbags.

U.S. 67 is now open for traffic, although Route D is still closed.

Jackson said Route D won't be open until the lake reaches 392 feet, and "we won't get everything completely open until we get to 387 feet," adding that "we have a way to go to get completely open."

At 390 feet, the majority of the roads get in better shape.

Despite campgrounds being under water and swimming and boating being off limits, business has not suffered at Lake Wappapello.

Reservations postponed

Jackson said her staff has contacted most of the people who had reservations for camping and many of those have postponed their trips. Although People's Creek and Redman campgrounds are open and picnic areas are available, she said, many people won't come if they can't swim or go boating.

But the sightseers have made up for it. The visitor's center was open all weekend, Jackson said, and traffic was snarled at times.

"We're not stopping people from looking," she said. "We're just not letting them get close to the spillway and the sandbags. They can stand at the visitor's center and look down at the lake and see how much water is there. The picnic shelters are open and they're still playing on the playground."

Jackson said the cafe sold out of ice cream; businesses at the lake are booming.

Clearwater Lake at Piedmont, Mo., is still inching up and has not yet crested, said James Beard, operations manager for Clearwater Lake.

Monday morning the lake was at 567.5 feet -- "as high as it can go without going into the emergency spillway," Beard said. "I think it will crest pretty soon."

The manager said 3,430 cubic feet is being released through the spillway gates. The maximum regulated release is 3,850.

All five developed campgrounds are open, although some will be limited in their use. Bluff View, Webb Creek and Piedmont parks will have limited access. Access to all boat docks will be allowed. Some of the lower elevation campsites in these parks have become inaccessible.

Most all-day use parking lots and boat ramps are under water, and there will be limited access to day use facilities during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend. People with camping reservations should call Reserve America at 1 (877) 444-7777 or the Clearwater Project Office at (573) 223-7777 to confirm the accessibility of the reserved site.

Current River crests

The Current River crested at 18.6 feet on Saturday and was at 7.9 feet Monday, said William Beteta, public information officer for Ozark Scenic Riverways.

The upper river of both Current and Jacks Forks rivers are open, but the lower rivers are still closed. Beteta said it's hard to predict when the lower river will open, depending on whether the predicted rain this weekend is heavy or not.

"This is the third river rise we've had in two weeks," Beteta said. "The first was a rise to 23 feet, the next one was 15 and this last one was 18. We've had water running over the roads saturating them. Many of our roads are closed because of damage from the river."

Beteta said people who had planned to come to the park on the Current River over the Memorial Day holiday should call (573) 323-4236 to see if the park will be open for visitors.

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