Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Ozarks has endured a very rainy season

Despite the sunny skies and warm temperatures, north-central Arkansas is still reeling from the effects of a series of torrential rains. Flooding continues.
Debris floats in the murky floodwater; a public dock is too far away to access



The White River basin has experienced so much rainfall that the flood-retention potential of the reservoirs on the White River system have exceeded their capacity. There has just been too much rain resulting in too much water.

Following one of the many articles in the local newspaper, The Baxter Bulletin recently, I noticed a comment about the dams not having any effect at all on flooding. The commenter suggested that it is almost like there aren't any dams at all.

I have to take issue with that. The dams have worked well. Yet, when they were designed, it was impossible to predict the kind of rain that has been experienced this year. I cannot imagine how horrific and widespread the flooding would have been without them. More lives would have been impacted and undoubtedly more lives would have been lost.

Controlling the White River basin is complicated, but basically, it began at Beaver Lake. With so much rain, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had to release water from the spill gates from the dam at Beaver Lake (near Eureka Springs, AR). The rush of water compromised the storage capacity downstream at Table Rock Lake, (Branson, MO) which also experienced record rainfalls. Those flood gates too had to be opened. When that occurred, people living along Lake Taneycomo, near Branson, endured major flooding. Because of the economic impact to Branson, affecting numerous homes and businesses, this became a huge news event.

The torrent continued to make its way into Bull Shoals Lake, which caused a need to open the spill gates at the dam there.

As I write this, the flood gates remain open at Bull Shoals, allowing 58,000 cubic feet of water per second to rush into the White River below. All 17 flood gates are open. It is a sight to see and hear.
Bull Shoals dam releases water into the White River
Awesome power was evident in sight and sound
Sadly, the result is high water in the generally tranquil waters of the White between Bull Shoals and Norfork. Homes and docks have been inundated by the swiftly rushing, but crystal clear, cool water.

We had almost 40 inches of rain in a less than two-week period. The rain was amazing. I have never seen anything like it.

While I feel for all those whose property is in a low-lying area, I have no sympathy for the arrogant and/or foolish people who built homes practically on the water's edge. The smart people, such as the pioneers who built the Wolf House, built it on a bluff overlooking the river. They still had their view of the river, but were protected by the nearly annual occurrence back then. They knew then and we should know now that rivers will always flood despite man's efforts. Man cannot overpower, out think, or out maneuver Mother Nature, so he shouldn't even try.

Except for the last day of this rainy spell, I have to say I enjoyed every minute of the rainy weather. Before this started, we were suffering from mild drought conditions. Rain was not something that came easily last summer. I used to watch out the window as clouds formed and then poof--they dried up and disappeared. It was depressing to watch all my plants shrivel and die. Flowers failed to bloom. Trees went into early dormancy. We even lost some. The vegetable garden was the worst of all. So, when the rains began this spring, it was time to rejoice. I had just planted the garden. It was thriving; everything was lush and green. We needed the rain.

Somewhere along the way, we crossed the line. I recall being just a little cranky on that last rainy day. I'm not sure if it was because I knew the rain was going to end, I missed seeing the sunshine, or if I had just reached a personal limit. I'm sure I would have continued my enjoyment of those dark, moody days, had it not been for the severe storms that accompanied  the heavy rain. The severity of the weather hit way too close to home, as we are only 80 miles from Joplin, MO where the death toll continues to climb, a week after the storm.

I have always been fascinated with flooding which hearkens back to when I was a small child, living on the south side of Chicago. My family lived on a street that dead-ended at a set or railroad tracks. A pedestrian viaduct below the the tracks allowed access to the other side. It was the way my brother and I walked to school every day. When the viaduct was flooded, we had to walk over the tracks instead. That was normally tabu, but was the only way during a flood. Such a forbidden trek was very exciting to a six-year old child. Apparently, that stimulation has followed me to adulthood.
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