Reelfoot Lake State Park evacuated until flooding subsides

Reelfoot Lake State Park evacuated until flooding subsides

Posted: Thursday, May 5, 2011 9:55 pm
By: Kevin Bowden, Staff Reporter

By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
Reelfoot Lake State Park is closed and has been evacuated.
The caged birds and reptiles have been moved from the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center and are staying at other parks until the floodwaters subside, according to David Haggard.
Also, all records, equipment, exhibits and anything else that is susceptible to water damage have been removed from facilities at the lake and taken to higher ground.
“We’ve evacuated the entire park,” he said today. “We started Sunday.”
Haggard is a regional naturalist for the Tennessee State Parks stationed at Reelfoot Lake.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” he told The Messenger.
All the park-operated facilities, including the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center, have been shut down until further notice.
Haggard said it could be as long as two weeks before everything is moved back in and the park is reopened.
The park staff has moved all the exhibits, equipment and records to an attic area at the park’s maintenance shop and into a rented trailer.
Haggard said the park will remain closed “until the situation stabilizes.”
He explained there are only a few acres of dry land at the Wildlife Management Area at Reelfoot Lake and he said the floodwaters are “literally inches from being in my house.”
A dog pen in his back yard is submerged by several feet of water, he said.
Asked whether flooding has caused problems for wildlife in the Reelfoot Lake area, Haggard was quick to reply, “Oh yeah.”
“Everything is searching for high ground,” he told The Messenger today.
Floodwaters have swamped a significant amount of areas in the county that serve as the home to such wildlife as deer, possums, raccoons, foxes and coyotes.
For tree-dwelling wildlife, flooding is not as much a concern as it is for wildlife such as deer, which must seek higher ground when floodwaters take away their habitat.
Obion County has an abundance of wildlife that s normally confined to woodland areas. Recent flooding has changed that.
Haggard said today he has seen a “significant” number of animals driven from their natural environment.
“When the water drops, they’ll go back home,” he said.
You can count snakes as another species searching for higher ground, according to Haggard.
“They (animals and reptiles) are being forced into smaller and smaller areas as the water goes up,” he said.
A recent herd of about 50 deer was spotted recently stranded on a small area of high ground surrounded by floodwaters.
For wildlife officials such as Haggard, recent flooding has created a diverse array of problems affecting all Reelfoot Lake residents — human and animal.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden many be contacted by e-mail at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 5.5.11

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