After nearly hitting flood stage, Lake Wylie water is flowing ahead of storm forecast

Just days after nearly tipping its flood point, Lake Wylie has water channeling through it ahead of yet another forecasted storm.

Some forecasts show 3 inches of rain the rest of the week.

“All reservoirs in the Catawba River Basin will be higher than normal for several days and additional rainfall can cause higher lake levels,” Duke Energy said in a message to residents Dec. 25. “We will provide updates as conditions change. As always, we encourage residents living along lakes, streams and other lower-lying and flood-prone areas to pay special attention to changing weather conditions and take any necessary precautions.”

Duke also explained how the company is maintaining water levels.

“The Duke Energy hydro operations team is aggressively moving water through the river system and preparing for significant rainfall in the forecast for Thursday,” the message reads. “Spillway gates are still open at Wylie, Fishing Creek and Cedar Creek hydro stations. Lake Wateree is spilling but the lake level is expected to very slowly decline.”

All but one of the 11 reservoirs on the Catawba River chain received an updated public safety message on Dec. 25. As of Wednesday morning, four of those reservoirs recorded water levels above full pond, or at the point where lakes begin to flood its shores.

Included is Mountain Island Lake, north of Wylie and Charlotte’s drinking water source. Mountain Island, along with Lake Wateree on the southern end of the chain, registered more than a foot above full pond. Two more lakes, the headwaters of Lake James and the largest reservoir on the chain with Lake Norman, sat within a foot of their full ponds Wednesday morning. Both are in North Carolina.

Lake Wylie actually had more room for water storage Wednesday morning than any other lake in the river chain. Wylie sat more than 3 feet below full pond, inches below Duke’s typical target level for the lake.

Wylie topped out Dec. 21 at half a foot below full pond, the highest lake level since Nov. 18. The lake dropped a couple of inches the next day, then 3 feet in three days as Duke ran water.

“I live on the lake, and I noticed it the other day,” Neil Brennan, chairman of the Lake Wylie Marine Commission, said Wednesday morning. “The lake was really up high. As high as I’ve ever seen it.”

That high water prompted Rock Hill to close public access points along the river, until further notice. Kayak launches and river trails have closed several times, temporarily, amid high water concerns in recent months.

The recent high water continues a trend this fall and winter. Since Oct. 12, Lake Wylie came within a foot of its spill point 27 times.

“My impression is Duke and its lake services group can manage this thing very, very well,” Brennan said. “These guys are on top of it.”

Jeff Armbruster, a service technician at Pier 49 Marina on the North Carolina end of Buster Boyd Bridge, said boaters need to be aware of possible high water dangers from debris.

“We definitely notice it,” Armbruster said of fluctuating lake levels, “but it’s not affected us in a negative way. There’s a lot of debris in the water that people need to know about.”

Experienced boaters, Brennan said, often don’t go out for a couple of days after major rain events to avoid “deadheads,” or floating logs dislodged by rain. Those logs can damage a boat, he said.

“It’s all about safety,” Brennan said. “It’s all about being mindful of what the conditions are.”

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John Marks covers community growth, municipalities and general news mainly in the Fort Mill and York County areas. He began writing for the Herald and sister papers in 2005 and won dozens of South Carolina Press Association and other awards since.