A week’s worth of soggy weather has swelled lakes across North Texas and caused flooding, a contrast to a year ago when most reservoirs were well below capacity.
At Lake Grapevine, levels have climbed more than 5 feet in the last week, and some areas around the lake, including boat ramps, campgrounds and parks, remain underwater.
For P.T. Clark, high water at the lake has become a fact of life.
Clark, a sailboat contractor who works out of Taylor Marine Service a few hundred yards from the lake, said the high water has a direct impact on his bottom line.
The problems began three years ago when the lake was so low from drought that boats couldn’t get into the lake. Last spring, the lake quickly filled beyond capacity.
It’s been off-and-on flooding ever since.
“We had about a three-week period last year when the water started coming up and it got back to normal,” Clark said. “Then we started getting rain. It’s been off-and-on flooding ever since.”
Last year’s record rainfall was much needed. Before it started, Lake Bridgeport was at 38 percent capacity, Eagle Mountain Lake was at 55 percent and Lake Worth 69 percent.
After last week’s rains, levels rose beyond capacity at those three lakes as floodwaters surged on the West Fork of the Trinity River.
At Lake Worth, rising waters lapped up next to some low-lying homes and flooded some outbuildings, boating was prohibited and some roads were closed. Residents were warned that wildlife displaced by the rising waters, including alligators and snakes, may be seeking higher ground.
The Brazos River also saw minor flooding near low-lying Horseshoe Bend in Parker County. In East Texas, the main stem of the Trinity is also expected to see flooding as water makes its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
‘Definitely on the lookout’
But Lake Grapevine saw the biggest impact from last week’s rains. Lake Grapevine is now more than 12 feet above its conservation level.
Chris Smith, deputy director of Grapevine Parks and Recreation, said more closures of ring roads could happen if the lake climbs a few more feet.
Many parks never reopened after last fall’s rains, meaning some have been dealing with high water for almost a year.
“This week it’s up almost 6 feet,” Smith said. “We are definitely on the lookout. We are watching the radar to see what happens.”
At Taylor Marine Service, Clark said some boats have been “stranded” for months, waiting for the water to recede. But that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
With repairs underway at the Lewisville Lake dam, the priority will be to keep levels lower at that lake, which means Lake Grapevine could need to hold more water to prevent downstream flooding, said Clay Church, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fort Worth District.
Both Lewisville and Grapevine are Corps of Engineers reservoirs in the Trinity River Basin.
With dry weather forecast this week, the corps will look at making releases to bring down Lake Grapevine’s levels. But releases may be limited to prevent flooding below the dam on Denton Creek.
While forecasters are expecting a wet spring, it’s unlikely to match last year’s record-breaker. For the year, North Texas received 62.61 inches of rain. In 2014, the total rainfall measured 21.32 inches.
“At the very least, we should see normal spring rainfall, but we’re not expecting a repeat of last year,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Cain.
‘We will be vigilant’
Some have welcomed the recent rains.
At Augie’s Sunset Cafe on Eagle Mountain Lake, rising lake levels have been bringing out curiosity seekers.
“You’d be surprised,” said Denny Steward of Augie’s. “It drags people out of the woodwork. Whenever it gets up on the patio, everybody comes out here to see how high it is.”
For the Tarrant Regional Water District, which owns Eagle Mountain and Lake Bridgeport, another couple of inches of rainfall could cause flooding problems, but David Marshall, director of engineering and operations support, is more worried about the next several months.
“I’m still expecting issues in April and May,” Marshall said. “But I was somewhat amazed by the total volumes in the Brazos basin and East Texas. These are rare events. This El Niño may be the giver of rare events, so we will be vigilant. And, I may be wrong.”
El Niño is the weather phenomenon off the coast of South America where above-normal ocean temperatures tend to bring wet weather to Texas.
Forecasters say El Niño should dissipate by early summer but there’s a 50 percent chance La Niña conditions, which occur when ocean temperatures fall in the same area of the Pacific, will develop by autumn. That would likely mean a drier winter for Texas and possibly a drought.
At Joe Pool Lake, fishing guide Donnie Woods and others remain hopeful the dry conditions arrive sooner rather than later.
If it doesn’t get too high, I'm predicting a record year.
Donnie Woods, fishing gudide at Joe Pool Lake
Last year’s rains shut down the popular Oasis Restaurant on Joe Pool Lake. Joe Pool is about 2 feet into its flood pool, but that’s not enough to cause problems for the restaurant or Lynn Creek Marina.
“It’s starting to get high, but we’re not really worried about it,” Woods said. “We think we can ride it out. If it doesn’t get too high, I’m predicting a record year.”
Here comes the sun
Sunday: Sunny, 76 high, 53 low
Monday: Sunny, 84 high, 59 low
Tuesday: Sunny, 77 high, 50 low
Source: National Weather Service Fort Worth