Reelfoot water level reaches winter pool after heavy rains
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter
By JOHN BRANNON
Messenger Staff Reporter
Weather-wise, you could have knocked Randy Cook of Dyersburg over with the proverbial feather.
He wanted rain; he looked for rain.
As manager of Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge, Cook controls the spillway gates at Reelfoot Lake.
For weeks he had been nervous about the low water level of Reelfoot Lake. A severe drought had dropped the lake to the point where boats docks were without water, leaving many boats high and dry.
It was a serious situation.
So yes, Cook wanted rain, he looked for rain.
He was certain it would come with the usual rains in late fall and early winter.
Instead, he got a surprise from Mother Nature.
He wanted rain and that’s what he got — all in one night.
“We went from below summer pool to winter pool overnight,” said Cook, manager of Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge. “The lake level rose a foot overnight.”
What began as a windblown rainstorm about 9 p.m. Friday became a deluge that quickly raised the lake level from 282 feet mean sea level (msl) to just over 283 feet msl.
“It came up a foot. Right now, it’s at 283.1 feet msl,” Cook said Tuesday. “We typically get winter rains but not that much in so short a period. I got a call Saturday morning that Highway 21 near the lake was flooding. So I went and opened seven gates on the east end of the spillway, and that relieved some of the pressure.
“There had been a lot of people talking about how low the water was in Reelfoot Lake. Well, Mother Nature made up for the low water level. It’s right at the winter pool level now. I closed the gates Monday morning.”
Cory Chaskelson, a meterologist with the Memphis office of National Weather Service, said at 8 a.m. Saturday, cooperative stations reported Union City and Martin received 1.98 inches of rain in the previous 24 hours. “That’s quite a bit of rain in a 24-hour period. It continued into Saturday and tapered off about 7 o’clock that evening,” he said.
Chaskelson attributes it to a low pressure system that moved across the central southern plains in a northeasterly direction and one in the upper Midwest. The two systems merged together further across the Mid-Atlantic. In the process, the plains area got snow and heavy ice; New England got heavy snow. Northwest Tennessee dodged the weather bullet.
“But we are still below normal in rainfall,” Chaskelson said. “Drought conditions vary, depending on where you are. Here in Memphis, we are about 20 inches below normal for this time of year, even with all the recent rainfall. But Jonesboro (Ark.) is two inches above normal.”
Ther Dyersburg area has received 4.76 inches of rainfall this month. The average for December for the area is 5.14 inches.
Published in The Messenger 12.19.07