Record-setting rain means keeping a close eye on Falls Lake Dam

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Friday’s rainfall is helping the Triangle area set records — but what does that mean to the rest of us and will it help with water supplies in the summer months if we get a dry spell?

This is now the 7th wettest year on record for the Raleigh area and if you look around you see can signs of it. 

Take Falls Lake for instance. The chief ranger at Falls Lake says discharges from the dam have effectively dropped lake levels about 3.5 feet in the last week. Officials hope that will provide enough room for runoff from all the rain the area is receiving.

The impact of the rain runoff isn’t always immediate.

“It takes a while for surface water to either sink in or to flow into riverways and streams of central North Carolina,” says CBS 17 Storm Team Meteorologist Paul Heggen.

It’s a delicate balance between keeping Falls Lake at the right level and not inundating downstream communities.

Ever since Hurricane Florence, the head ranger at Falls Lake says it’s been a battle to get back to normal water releases and lake levels — and Heggen knows why.

“We’ve had close to 5 feet of rain for 2018 – way above normal even if you take Florence out of the equation entirely,” he says.

It wasn’t that long ago we were in a severe drought around this area.

A decade ago, lakes and streams dried up and water availability became so critical that back in 2007 cities like Durham were counting the number of days before they ran out of water.

Just recently, before all this rain, the drought conditions still persisted.

“Just a year ago we were in dry to moderate conditions,” said Heggen. “We’ve had so much rain in the past 12 months, the nearest drought conditions or even abnormally dry conditions are hundreds of miles away.”

In past few months central North Carolina has had to deal with floods and extreme weather patterns creating more droughts, heatwaves and cold snaps — so does this mean when summer comes we might have to worry about drought conditions again?

“At this point, it’s too soon for that,” said Heggen. “We’ve got a long way to go through this winter. A lot will depend on how much rain we get in January and February.”

We do you know one thing for certain: right now, this area has received almost twice as much rain this year as Seattle, which many consider one of the rainiest cities in the country.

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