Update: Lake Wateree flood risk rises

jholleman@thestate.comMay 7, 2013 

— The potential for flooding on Lake Wateree is on the rise. Duke Energy late Tuesday revised its estimate for the peak flood levels from 102.5 feet to 103.5 feet.

Lake Wateree hits flood stage at 100 feet, and it rose just above that level Wednesday morning. Duke warned residents around the lake that it could hit 103.5 later today.

At that level, water threatens the foundations of many older homes, and docks that aren't properly secured are on the move.

Meanwhile, as the Congaree River rises to flood stage, the “walk” portion of the West Columbia Riverwalk gives way to the “river” portion.

Flooding along the Congaree impacts recreation more than it does man-made structures. People who frequent the West Columbia and Cayce riverwalks will have to find another place to exercise for a few days. Only about half a mile near the amphitheater was accessible Tuesday. (If you’re looking for an alternative, the Canal Walk in Columbia’s Riverfront Park remains high and dry at the flood levels expected this week.)

People who go to Congaree National Park for long walks in the woods will have to settle for short walks on the raised boardwalk. At the national park, the flood level is expected to rise above the low section of the boardwalk, but most of the nearly one-mile high boardwalk should remain open, according to park officials.

Frequent park visitors can get a different experience watching the overflow from the river run under the raised boardwalk Wednesday and Thursday.

Heavy rainfall last weekend in central North Carolina has forced Duke Power to release high volumes of water from bloated lakes there. The result was flooding of riverfront neighborhoods north of Charlotte on Tuesday. With that water moving downstream, Duke projects Lake Wateree will crest at 102.5 feet on Wednesday.

At 102.5 feet, water typically laps at the foundations of some older homes on Lake Wateree. The problem worsens if wind or boat traffic whips up waves, according to Lake Wateree homeowner Rick Noble.

Lake Wateree hit 105 feet in 2004 and 107 feet after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The expected flooding shouldn’t impact the annual Raft A Rama fundraiser for Canoeing for Kids on the Saluda River. The non-profit usually relies on SCE&G to release extra water from the Lake Murray dam to ensure a one-day whitewater rafting experience the Saturday before Mother’s Day. It appears Mother Nature will provide the water this year.

The rafting trip costs $50 per person. Go to https://www.facebook.com/CanoeingForKids for details or to register for a trip.

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