W. Kerr Scott Reservoir’s water level peaked at a new record high of 1,066 feet and 61 inches above sea level at 2 p.m. Monday in the aftermath of heavy rain Saturday afternoon through mid-morning Sunday and additional rain starting Friday in the reservoir watershed.
As much as 9 ½ inches of rain fell in some portions of the reservoir’s watershed on Saturday and Sunday.
Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service issued a “hazardous weather statement” saying showers could bring periods of moderate to heavy rainfall Wednesday night in an area that includes Wilkes County. The NWS said this may be enough to result in localized flooding in the area that includes Wilkes. The NWS said this is especially true in areas near the Blue Ridge.
The reservoir level remained above 1,062 feet until 10:15 a.m. Tuesday and was a few inches shy of 1,060 at mid-morning Wednesday. The old record high level of 1,061.2 feet above sea level was set in November 1977.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which built and manages W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, began upping the volume of water released from the dam by opening the dam gates increasingly wider Monday.
Water was being released at a rate of 2,500 to 3,500 cubic feet per second (cfs) Monday and has been gradually increased since then. Maximum release from the dam is 5,300 cfs and minimum release is 125 cfs during a drought. Lisa Parker, a spokesman for the Corps’ Wilmington District headquarters in Wilmington, said Monday said that the volume released was expected to exceed 5,000 cfs this week.
On Wednesday, Parker said the release of water was expected to remain high through next week, by which time the reservoir’s water level should be approaching normal level of 1,030 feet above sea level.
Parker said W. Kerr Scott Dam performed as designed by holding back incoming flood waters to prevent flooding downstream, but the Corps “must now make controlled releases to draw down the flood pool and lower lake levels.”
She said Corps officials sent dam experts to W. Kerr Scott Dam to monitor the current situation there. Corps personnel “are continuously inspecting the dam and there are no safety concerns,” she added. The gate on the road across the top of the dam is now closed to maintain worker safety during observations and instrumentation checks, said Parker.
If the reservoir level reached 1,075 feet above sea level (top of the flood control pool), water would automatically start flowing through a 400-foot-long earthen channel (spillway) just north of the dam and then down a steep slope to Fish Dam Creek, which empties into the Yadkin River just below the dam.
Therefore, W. Kerr Scott Reservoir has 45 vertical feet of dedicated flood storage (difference between 1,030 and 1,075 feet) and the spillway functions as a release valve.
W. Kerr Scott Dam, an earth and rock structure completed in 1963, is 1,750 feet long, 148 feet tall and reaches an elevation of 1,107 feet above sea level. At a normal level of 1,030 feet above sea level, the reservoir covers 1,475 acres, is 9.7 miles long and has 55 miles of shoreline.
Recreational facilities closed
Parker said the reservoir’s high water level is impacting docks and other structures and most recreational facilities on Corps-managed property around it are closed until the level recedes and repairs and cleanup are conducted. “It is unfortunate that the higher elevations are impacting recreation, but the Corps’ number one priority is flood control,” she said.
All hiking and biking trails on Corps-managed property are closed. Recreational areas closed include Boomer, Berry Mountain, Smithey's Creek, Damsite, Keowee and Dark Mountain parks, as well as the Boomer and Marley's Ford wildlife management areas, Blood Creek fishing pier, West Yadkin River trailhead, Warrior Creek Campground, and portions of Bandit's Roost and Fort Hamby campgrounds and day use activities at Fort Hamby.
“We would also like to remind the public that parking is limited to designated public parking areas for your safety and the safety of our rangers and staff,” said Parker.
For more details and current status of openings and closings, visit the W Kerr Scott Facebook page or call the Visitor Assistance Center at 336-921-3390.