As Hurricane Irma makes its way across the Atlantic, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has begun a pre-storm drawdown that includes water releases from Lake Okeechobee.
The target flow for the Caloosahatchee Estuary is 4,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) as measured at Moore Haven Lock (S-77) located in the southwest part of the lake. The target flow for the St. Lucie Estuary is 1,800 cfs as measured at St. Lucie Lock (S-80) near Stuart. Additional runoff from rain in the St. Lucie basin could occasionally result in flows that exceed targets.
“We want to be ready for the heavy precipitation from Irma,” said Col. Jason Kirk, Jacksonville District Commander. “We anticipate direct rain over the lake could add a foot to the water level. We’ve seen basin runoff from past events cause the lake to rise three feet over the span of a month. We want to do all we can to ensure we have as much storage as possible for Irma.
Today, the lake stage is 13.67 feet. The Corps anticipates the releases will last a short time, with future water management decisions dependent on the water level in the lake after the storm passes.
“We will only be able to release water for about three days at these rates,” said Kirk. “As the storm gets closer, we’ll have to close all the gates around the lake to reduce the risk from potential storm surge that may develop from high winds on the lake.”
The Corps continues to closely coordinate its water management activities with the South Florida Water Management District. For more information on water level and flows data for Lake Okeechobee, visit the Corps’ water management website at http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/WaterManagement.aspx.
Release no. 17-041