As South Carolina braces for another storm later this week, Lake Wylie and the reservoirs around are making room.
Hurricane Michael may bring 4 inches of rain to the York County area, according to forecasts. The rain is expected Thursday into Friday. It comes on the heels of Hurricane Florence, which poured up to 9 inches in parts of York, Lancaster and Chester counties last month.
On Tuesday morning, Lake Wylie sat about a foot above its target level. That’s 2 feet from its flood point. By contrast, Duke Energy dropped the lake 2 feet below its target, or 5 feet below the spilling or flood point, ahead of Hurricane Florence.
Lake Wylie has been steady at about a foot above target level since Sept. 28. The lake has been above target since Florence. At its height, during that storm, the lake was about 18 inches from its flood point.
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Duke hasn’t released lake-specific advisories yet ahead of Hurricane Michael. There were advisories issued Monday for Fishing Creek Lake and Lake Wateree downstream. The Fishing Creek Hydro Station has three units in a maintenance outage and won’t be back up by Oct. 17. A floodgate will be partially opened to help move water downstream during the storm.
“Flows from Fishing Creek Hydro could increase if the basin receives significant rainfall from Hurricane Michael,” the advisory reads. “Duke Energy Hydro Operations is also moving water to lower the water level in Lake Wateree in anticipation of this storm. We will continue monitoring the weather and rainfall and will operate the hydro system to reduce impacts as much as possible.”
Duke operates the Catawba River basin reservoirs together to prevent sinking lakes during drought, or flooding during heavy rains. Lake Wylie is one of the larger lakes in the basin, and along with lakes James and Norman in North Carolina, that makes up a critical water storage source to help even out water levels across two states.
Not all dams are Duke dams.
On Tuesday morning, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control asked reservoir owners statewide to check dams and lower water levels ahead of Hurricane Michael.
”Owners of reservoirs with functional gates or flashboards should consider operating them to provide additional storage for the anticipated rainfall,” said Jill Stewart, dam safety and stormwater permitting division director.
Much of South Carolina is still saturated from Hurricane Florence, which could increase runoff into state streams and lakes, according to the agency. Stewart asked for dam owners to clean trash and debris from spillwaysm, before and after the coming storm.
“If there is a dam downstream of your dam and you are lowering your water level, please call the owner of that dam to advise him or her about what you are doing,” Stewart said.