LAKE WATEREE — UPDATE: The flood crest on Lake Wateree fell short of early predictions, with the waters rising only to 101.9 feet Thursday morning. Duke Energy officials now forecast a crest of 102 feet on Thursday.
Duke and the National Weather Service now forecast the lake will stay above flood stage of 100 feet through the weekend, dropping below 100 early next week.
Earlier story: When they finally got a day ideal for working or playing in backyards, the folks who live along Lake Wateree watched Wednesday as their yards slowly disappeared under floodwaters.
Heavy rainfall last weekend in the Catawba River basin in North Carolina worked its way downstream, pushing Lake Wateree over its 100-foot flood level early Wednesday. By noon, the level was above 101 feet. It was 101.5 at 5 p.m., and the potential crest late Wednesday was 103 feet, according to Duke Energy, which manages the lake and upstream dams.
The difference between 101.5 and 103 is important. At 101.5 feet, the walkways to many private docks are underwater, and water flows into or under some outbuildings. At 103, water laps under or into some older homes.
Wednesday afternoon, the flood was more nuisance than danger.
“Anytime you get it up in the yard, you hate it,” said Mike Lewis, who has lived through many floods on Rocky Point Circle. “But as long as it’s not in the house, it’s not that bad.”
Lewis’ house will remain high and dry even at 103 feet, but he knows his well-manicured yard will be full of junk when the water recedes. “You get everybody else’s debris,” he said.
Jud Pardue had to prop up a beehive on concrete blocks behind his Bird Island Road house. Someone else’s dock had torn loose and floated into Pardue’s cove, and a jet-ski ramp had wedged against the pole that holds his purple martin nests. But at least he isn’t disconnected from land like he often was before the road was raised a few years ago.
“There won’t be any damage unless we get some wind this afternoon,” Pardue said.
Forecasts from the National Weather Service indicate the level will begin dropping Thursday and should be back below flood stage by Sunday.
Most of the longtime residents recall four or five floods early last decade that were worse than this one. The last really damaging flood hit 105 feet in 2004. The all-time high water mark was 107 feet after Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
But watching the water slowly rise was new and a little frightening to newcomers Merry and Ray Daniels, who moved to Rockbridge Road in November.
They hustled to turn off the electrical breakers to the boat lift at the end of the dock, and they watched a nice-looking boat float down their cove with nobody at the helm. The many snakes flushed into the water especially worried Merry, who often walks a dog on the small peninsula underwater Wednesday behind their house.
“I’m looking at the cleanup,” Merry Daniels said. “We have a lot of elderly along this road who’ll need help to get it done.”
Some other newcomers are finding out about floods before they even move in. The unfinished docks behind two houses under construction on Rockbridge were built to stay above water at 101 feet, said Jeff McManus, who was managing the construction work. The docks had about a foot of water over their bases Wednesday afternoon.
Scott Stephens had to evacuate his five chickens to high ground from the coop he keeps in an outbuilding on his Rockbridge Road house. The other stuff in the building was moved to higher shelves.
Stephens knows from experience that the water will reach the first step up to his back door at 103 feet. He isn’t concerned with water coming into the house this time. His more serious concern is the water topping his septic tank, meaning no showers or toilet flushes until the water recedes.
“We have to go out and shower somewhere else,” Stephens said.
But on a beautiful day with sun shimmering off the lake, Stephens was getting some work done in his yard rather than fretting about where the rising water would stop.
“You’ve got to take the good with the bad,” he said.