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Water rising in Brazos even as Waco skies clear

Water rising in Brazos even as Waco skies clear

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Park rangers pull the boat ramp out of Lake Waco at Koehne Park on Monday, June 7, 2021 as lake levels continue to rise after near-daily rainfall in the region.

The swollen Brazos River at Waco is expected to continue rising late this week as upstream dams at Lake Waco and Lake Whitney release floodwaters that have piled up from recent storms.

But it appears the region will begin drying out in coming days as the clouds roll away and temperatures rise, National Weather Service officials said.

After rising more than 10 feet over the last week and swamping the downtown Riverwalk, the Brazos at Waco was forecast to rise another 3 feet by this weekend, according to the weather service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

Most of that flow will come from upstream at Lake Whitney, which stood at 12.5 feet over its normal conservation level Wednesday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had closed all of its parks around Lake Whitney and had begun draining the floodwaters at a rate of 25,353 cubic feet per second.

Lake Waco was up 8.5 feet over its usual conservation pool of 462 feet above sea level and was releasing about 1,300 cubic feet per second into the Bosque River upstream of the Brazos. The Corps has closed Koehne Park, Lacy Point and Flat Rock access points as well as day use areas at Airport Beach and Reynolds Creek Park because of high water. All boat ramps are closed except for Airport Park.

Park Ranger Mike Champagne said some park roads are underwater and will take a couple of weeks to dry out for use after the water recedes. Bathrooms and electrical systems have also taken some damage, he said. But he was hopeful that the lake will be back in full use this month.

“Right now we’re at a pretty manageable level,” Champagne said.

Rains upstream of Lake Waco on Monday caused the North Bosque River to spike at more than 12,000 cubic feet per second at Valley Mills on Tuesday. The stream flow fell back to 2,560 cubic feet per second by Wednesday, which is still more than Lake Waco was releasing.

Waco Regional Airport recorded 0.82 of an inch of rain Monday and 0.17 of an inch Tuesday, but unofficial rain gauge readings around the county showed multiple inches.

“A lot of the pattern we’ve seen over the last couple of days show large variances over small distances, not so much uniform widespread precipitation,” said Jennifer Dunn, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Fort Worth.

Much of flow in the Brazos River has accumulated over the last week or two and is now being released from upstream lakes such as Lake Granbury and Possum Kingdom Lake, Dunn said. The heavy rainfall came from an upper-level low-pressure system in West Texas.

Now an upper-level high-pressure ridge is starting form, promising warmer temperatures, Dunn said. The watershed appears to be ready to dry out, though humidity will linger for a while, she said.

Temperatures reached 93 Wednesday, with a heat index of 102 degrees. The National Weather Service forecast through Sunday calls for more high temperatures in the low- to mid-90s and overnight lows in the mid-70s.

“We’re getting closer to our typical summertime pattern,” she said.

The public needs to stay aware of the health risks of hot weather, she said.

Dunn said some models show the high-pressure ridge may move out in the next couple of weeks, raising the chances of rain again.

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Managing editor

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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