Rains Push Georgia Rivers, Lakes To Flood Stage And Beyond
With more rain to come, some waters are already at flood stage and projected to rise.
Rain may be a good thing, but enough is enough.
The water at many Georgia reservoirs is outside the banks and up into parking lots—the picnic-table pattern may emerge for bass anglers the next few days. However, you might have trouble launching your boat. Many boat ramps at Lake Lanier are already closed, and anglers should check the ramps on their favorite lakes before heading out for a trip.
Rivers and creeks are outside the banks across much of the state, with widespread minor flooding occurring at more than 40 locations. The National Weather Service says moderate flooding is occurring on the Coosa River below Rome, on the Oconee River at Dublin and on the Ocmulgee River at Abbeville. Moderate flood levels could also occur on the lower Altamaha in a few days.
The NWS defines moderate flooding as “some inundation of structures and roads near streams. Some evacuations of people and/or transfer of property to higher elevations.”
The Coosa River is outside the banks in downtown Rome, but fortunately still well below the huge levees that protect downtown Rome from flood waters.
At Plant Hammond downstream from Rome, the latest reading had the Coosa at 575.1 feet, which is 5.1 feet above flood stage. The river was still rising when the latest reading was taken, and significant rain is coming to northwest Georgia today.
Lake Weiss is typically drawn down 4 or 5 feet below full pool during the winter. Right now the lake is at 1.1 feet above full. The lake rose 0.2 feet yesterday.
Good news for that area is that the Oostanaula River seems to have crested and should begin a downward trend. At the Resaca gauge, at 7:15 a.m. this morning (Feb. 12, 2020), the Oostanaula was at 23.17 feet, about 1.2 feet above flood stage and trending down after cresting at 24.2 feet. The Conasauga River has also crested, reaching 23 feet on Sunday, and is now at 18 feet, which is right at flood stage for the river at the Tilton gauge.
In extreme northwest Georgia, Chickamauga Creek near Fort Oglethorpe crested above flood stage, and all that water heading to the Tennessee River and Chickamauga Lake forced the delay of a major bass tournament due to high water. The Bassmaster Elite Series event scheduled for Feb. 14-17 has been moved to March 19-22. Much of the weigh-in and launch site at Dayton Boat Dock and Point Park is underwater.
Lake Allatoona is 3.5 feet above full pool, with water in the parking lots and up to the picnic tables at many recreation areas and launch sites. Upstream of the lake, the Etowah River gauge in Canton was at 16.3 feet this morning, just above flood stage of 16 feet. The Etowah reached 20 feet a few days ago, 4 feet above flood stage. The Corps of Engineers is holding the Etowah River below Lake Allatoona well below flood stage. As of yet, the corps has not posted any information on Allatoona ramp closures due to high water. If they do, it should be included on their Facebook page.
Lake Lanier, Chattahoochee River
Lake Lanier is 4.5 feet above full pool, and the water is up into parking lots of many boat launch sites and recreation areas. As of this morning, the lake level at Lanier is still trending slightly up.
Currently, the corps has closed the following boat ramps due to high water: Little River, Nix Bridge, Simpson, Thompson Creek, Little Hall, Thompson Bridge, Sardis Creek, Little Ridge, Toto Creek, Two Mile, Old Federal Day Use, Mountain View, Bald Ridge Campground, Old Federal Campground, Van Pugh South Campground and Sawnee Campground. Click here for updates on Lake Lanier corps ramps and recreation areas.
The Chattahoochee River below Atlanta is flowing high and strong, but it’s below flood stage. At Franklin the flood stage is 23 feet, and this morning the gauge read 19.8 feet. New River near Franklin is at 9.2 feet this morning and rising, with flood stage at 12 feet.
West Point Lake is still 3.8 feet below full pool. Downstream of West Point, the Chattahoochee is nearing flood stage at Columbus. This morning the river is at 26.6 feet, just below flood stage of 27 feet.
The Flint River was nearing flood stage at Montezuma, Albany and Bainbridge, but current projections are that levels will drop at Montezuma and Albany and remain just below flood stage at Bainbridge. Lake Seminole is already 3.3 feet above full pool, but it dropped .26 feet yesterday.
Lake Hartwell is 3.2 feet above full pool this morning, and it rose .72 feet yesterday. Lake Russell is 3.8 feet above full pool and rose slightly yesterday. Clarks Hill is 2.3 above full pool, and it dropped 0.5 feet yesterday.
According to the corps Savannah District office, “Despite rising water level at Hartwell and Russell reservoirs, enough storage area remains to delay opening the spillway gates—rumors notwithstanding. The upper basin received about 1.4 inches of rain over the last 24 hours, which is moderately less than the forecasted 2 to 4 inches we anticipated. However, natural inflows into Lake Hartwell remain greater than the current discharge rate, causing the reservoir to continue climbing. Conditions beyond today may still require opening spillway gates at all three reservoirs, especially if the basin receives more noteworthy rainfall in the next three to five days.”
The Savannah River below Clarks Hill at Augusta is projected to remain just below flood stage. Downstream, levels are at minor flood stage at Burton’s Ferry and right at moderate flood levels at Clyo. The Savannah River hits flood stage in Clyo at 11 feet. This morning it is at 14.8 feet. It is projected to remain just below moderate flood classification at 15 feet over the next several days.
Middle Georgia And Southeast Georgia
The Ocmulgee River in Macon is just below flood stage of 18 feet, but the river level is projected to rise in the next several days. This morning the Macon gauge is reading 17.82 feet, but the NWS is projecting a crest on Friday morning of 20.4 feet. That’s still well within the minor flood category for Macon—the river has to reach 26 feet in Macon to hit moderate flood classification.
Downstream of Macon, the Ocmulgee has already reached moderate flood levels near Abbeville. This morning the Abbeville gauge is reading just above 15 feet. Flood stage there is 12 feet, and the moderate classification begins at 14 feet. The river is projected to crest at 16 feet on Friday morning. Major flooding begins at 18 feet.
Just one county to the northeast, the Oconee River is well outside the banks in the Dublin area, but fortunately the river is beginning to fall. This morning the Dublin gauge is reading 26.1 feet, down from a crest yesterday of 27.82 feet. The level for moderate flooding is 25 feet, and flood stage is 21 feet.
All of the water from the Ocmulgee and Oconee rivers is heading to the Altamaha River. The Altamaha gauge at Baxley this morning is already above flood stage at 77.3. Minor flooding begins at 74.5 feet. The NWS is not projecting a crest in Baxley until around Monday, Feb. 17 at a level of 80.8, just above the moderate flood threshold of 80. Downstream at Doctortown, this morning the Altamaha is at 11.7 feet, just below flood stage of 12 feet. The NWS projects out until Feb. 17 with a rising trend to a level of 13.4 feet, just below moderate flooding at 14 feet. The NWS has a similar projection for the Everett City gauge—just below moderate flooding levels through next Monday and possibly still rising.
The Cannoochee and Ohopee rivers have crested and should drop out below flood stage by early next week.
In southeast Georgia, rivers flooding outside the banks is nothing new. For fishing, it can often mean good action and bigger fish in coming months, according to Capt. Bert Deener, a WRD Fisheries Region Supervisor, lure maker and outdoor writer.
“Flooding houses, cutting roads and culverts, etc. is never good, but flooding a coastal river floodplain is great for fish populations,” Bert said. “Fish survival and growth are higher with high river levels. When the rivers stay up all winter, the fish are usually numerous, fat and sassy when it drops out in the spring.
“WRD conducted an age and growth study on redbreast sunfish back in the early 2000s and found that growth was phenomenal—some of the highest recorded for the species—after the floodplain was inundated for long periods of time. Flooding keeps you off the river now, but the benefits later in the spring are worth it.”
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