BLOG: Duke Energy’s lake level forecast led to confusion

BLOG: Duke Energy’s lake level forecast led to confusion
Mountain Island Lake (Source: Max Thompson with Duke Energy)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As per WBTV News coverage Monday evening, Duke Energy contends lake levels were lowered throughout the Catawba River chain starting a week prior to the event, based on the forecast of tropically-induced heavy rain that was expected to unfold over several days near the headwaters of the basin.

Sunday Timeline of Duke Energy’s Lake Level Forecast for Mountain Island Lake:

  • 9:30 a.m.: Will Exceed 102.5 feet
  • 10:45 a.m.: Forecast To 104 feet
  • 1:40 p.m.: Not To Exceed 105 feet
  • 4:00 p.m.: Not To Exceed 106 feet
  • 6:00 p.m.: Will Exceed 106 feet
  • Monday 4:00 a.m.: Crested at 106.9 feet. The only recorded time Mountain Island Lake exceeded this level was on August 30, 1940 at 109.6 feet.

Notes: Full pool is 100 Feet, minor flooding occurs at 102 Feet and moderate flooding occurs at 105 Feet.

The Duke spokesman stated the amount of rainfall was the fourth highest they’d ever experienced - in more than 100 years - and it was simply impossible to move the volume of water through the chain without significant rises / flooding on the bottleneck lakes, such as Mountain Island Lake and Lookout Shoals Lake. These two lakes, in particular, are, in reality, wide spots in the river as compared to the larger water bodies in the chain.

I am neither blaming nor defending Duke Energy’s management of this situation, but, rather, supplying a synopsis of the news story our Coleen Harry WBTV covered in the wake of the flood (since so many asked).

It seems Duke was overwhelmed with both the amount of rain and rate at which it fell and the resultant lake level rises through the system.

A frustrating and costly problem appears to be the changing lake-level forecast throughout Sunday, which turned out to be a major bust, and for some, a lack of information at all (as many residents on Lookout Shoals Lake contend).

Duke Energy has apologized for the lack of timely and consistent forecast information.

I forecast weather, not lake levels. And making predictions about the future is not an easy task. But those of us that make them for a living accept what comes when one ventures out on a limb. With more than 30 years of experience in making weather forecasts, I have some understanding of human nature and how / why people react (or don't) when told something is or is not likely to happen.

In situations like the one that unfolded over the weekend, people need reliable forecasts delivered in a timely fashion so they can make decisions on how best to protect their lives and property.

I've heard from many of you that feel they neither received an accurate forecast or timely information.

- Meteorologist Al Conklin

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