Drone pictures of Lake Murray dam with gates open

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I thought these were pretty cool images shared by the National Weather service yesterday evening, which I just saw. Here’s the caption info:

Drone images of the Lake Murray Dam Spillway. These floodgates have not been used since 1969. Photos courtesy of Ebben M Aley.

Technically, have those floodgates ever been used? Wasn’t the dam rebuilt a few years back? Of course, maybe the floodgate part is original equipment; I don’t know.

Finally, I can see the thing that caused the flooding in my area.

Here’s hoping letting off that pressure did the trick, and the dam remains strong.

Speaking of which, in my household we got to contemplating this passage in The State this morning:

SCE&G operates the lake originally built for hydropower 85 years ago but now a major source of recreation and drinking water for the Columbia area….

Which raises the question — are those good enough reasons to have those millions of tons of water poised over us? Couldn’t we get drinking water some other way?

Needless to say, you and your recreation seem kinda low priorities to me at the moment.

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13 thoughts on “Drone pictures of Lake Murray dam with gates open

  1. Scout

    I heard that 1969 was the last time the spillway was opened for weather reasons. I thought they opened the gates to let water out while they were building the back up dam. The guy I talked to walking around my neighborhood said the water in his backyard was just a little higher than when they were building the back up dam, and I thought he said they used the spillway then too. But I’m not sure.

    Here is youtube video of the spillway being tested in 2012.

  2. Mark Stewart

    Holding the lake to the nominal mean high of 360′ pool does seem like it was not the right call if it flooded out homes and businesses downstream. Has it? Or has it only flooded the Saluda floodplain areas (ie parks and pools, etc)? If it has flooded structures, then it would seem that allowing the lake to rise above the 360′ level – and thereby flooding out docks, etc. – would have been more prudent. The Lake Murray flood elevation, below which no construction is permitted, is 363′. I believe the dam is imperiled at around 368′. Obviously the difference between 360′ and 363′ in Lake Murray represents a huge volume of water.

    I understand not permitting a rise above 363′, but not so sure about the judgment of keeping the pool at 360′ max as that’s only a recreationally convenient level. I would personally have rather repaired a single power line and possibly some dock structure than know my convenience lead others’ to have their life history destroyed.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Whether homes and businesses were damaged I don’t know. I know that homes in Quail Hollow Village, which are much lower and closer to the water than we are, had water up to their porch steps and standing between the houses. See these photos from a resident of that neighborhood.

      The only things I KNOW were flooded were this pool and tennis courts, and the Riverwalk.

      Anyone know of damage beyond that?

  3. Scout

    Haley just said the gates are all closed now. I think a few houses in my neighborhood probably got some water though the majority are built higher up. Does anybody know about the animals at the zoo. I know they must have contingency plans but I think where the zoo is pretty low. Wonder if they had to move any of them.

    1. Norm Ivey

      There was a rumor that the hippos at the zoo had escaped, but Riverbanks good-naturedly squelched the rumor by pointing out that they have no hippos. They also said that their animals were safe. That was Sunday, I think.

      1. Scout

        Well I guess they wouldn’t have any, anymore then, if they escaped 😉

        Seriously, I did hear that too. But I’ve still wondered about it, since the water has been rising since that statement. I feel confident they will keep them safe. Just wondered if they had to move any.

  4. Norm Ivey

    I think they open the spillways on a regular basis. Warnings go out that the river may rise from time to time. Of course, those are nothing like this event.

    I’ve not seen any reports that homes were flooded because of the opening of the floodgates. It looks like much of the flooding was caused by dams that failed. I would hope that zoning would address the possibility of opening the gates and would require that housing be constructed at a certain elevation above the flood crest.

    It does seem a bit of overkill for running water in homes, but it also supplies water for both the hydro and coal plants at its base and, if it was built on the same premise as most dams, flood control, which is what they used it for this week. I don’t know if it was necessary to open the gates or not–I trust the engineers when they determined that it was. All the water that fell in the upstate will be making its way through Lake Murray in the next few days, and you’ve got to anticipate that rising water.

  5. Scout

    I’ve seen reports from a friend on facebook of a neighborhood of off Bush River Road near Tram road and the Shaw plant that flooded – water up to the roofs of houses. The person posting thought it may have been related to the dam release but it also is close to a stream that runs through the Shaw property, so they weren’t sure. Its the Pine Glen Subdivision.

    My brother is at his house on the lake since he has no power or water in Kings Grant. He says the water is rising again on the lake.

    1. Mark Stewart

      The subdivisions built on the river side of the railroad in St. Andrews seemed ill-advised, even during normal times.

      Hopefully they will not be rebuilt – if they were flooded out. Or at least rebuilt on pilings.

  6. Ralph Hightower

    SCE&G normally doesn’t keep the lake at the full pool stage of 360′. I don’t know what the average is, but I think they try and keep it around 355 to 357. They also use it for an on-demand generator for when they need to generate more electricity.
    Here is DNR’s link to online data for Lake Murray and other South Carolina lakes and rivers:
    Be sure to follow the instructions on that page on making modifications to the Microsoft Internet Explorer. It wouldn’t work for me until I followed those instructions.

  7. Joanne Fineberg

    I live in Coldstream right below the lake. We saw pockets of flooding, some severely, some just inches, one street with a couple dozen homes, other streets with just a few in the creek area. Most affected homes have been stripped of belongings, drywall, insulation, flooring, belongings on lower levels. Pineglen, in the Bush River/Tram roads are was hit – it’s my understanding every house suffered some flooding into living spaces – they’re within a 1/2 mile or so of the Saluda River plus have a creek flowing along the river side of the subdivision.

    USGS surveyors have been in the subdivision and said some high-water marks appear to exceed those of all recorded records. The Nursery Road bridge had rising, flowing water over the roadbed Sunday morning. In addition debris from the flood and backyards – fence sections, toys, storage sheds, was piling up under the bridge and may have impeded the flow of the water into the spillway when the larger items got stuck and started holding back debris.

    Homes on Rawl’s Creek in Coldstream are mandated to carry flood insurance, so those property owners already knew they were living in a flood-prone area, even without the recent torrentials rains and have experienced prior flooding. Residents here were already preparing for flooding before the Lake Murray release. Unfortunately, because the water reached such unexpected levels, those living on Coldwater Lake near Nursery Road were uninsured. Hello, FEMA.

    Compounding the unexpected amount of rainfall – two dams releasing water Sunday morning – the dam at Buzzard’s Roost on Lake Greenwood as well as the release at Lake Murray, and small dam breaches around the area.

    Back in 2005 when the reinforcing dam was being built we received an evacuation map and instructions from SCANA. Should the dam collaspe it was was stated the waters would reach 17 miles to the top step of the State House in 15 minutes or less. If that had happened, I wouldn’t have time find that darned map much less evacuate.

    This NOAA site states 359′ is the action stage, 360′ is flood stage with moderate flooding at 363′ and major at 365′, so the 360′ level isn’t for recreational purposes. http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=cae&gage=IRMS1

    Regardless of where the blame, if any, should go, I’ve been astounded as I’ve worked to coordinate relief efforts and check on our residents – the sheer number of volunteers, especially those from outside Coldstream, has been mind-boggling, day after day, from sunup to sundown and later. They’ve gotten filthy and exhausted as they’ve emptied homes, stripped and cleaned houses, crawlspaces, yards. They’ve set up water, food, supply and first aid stations. More striking is the attitude of our homeowners – only two people have griped about how the aftermath has been handled. Everyone is simply grateful we suffered no loss of life or serious injury, and for the assistance they’ve been provided. The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department say they’re “only doing their job” but they’ve been present and available at a moment’s notice for rescues, aid and assistance referrals, patroling continously to watch for looters and keeping an eye on homes left vacant due to unliveable conditions. The Solid Waste Division has worked with us to haul the seemingly unendless mountains of debris out so we don’t have to haul it to a dump or the county landfill 20+ miles away.

    I don’t know what time the water was released – I keep hearing around 10-11am. If this is correct, then we were already doomed in Coldstream – I have a pic the Nursery Road bridge I took at 9:04 – the water was already a foot over the roadbed and homes were flooding.

    A suit against SCE&G was filed in 1965 when the release occured with the lake level EXCEEDING 360′ – the plaintiff lost. http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/290/8/2147007

    Today, an elderly resident looked at the damp mess of his home piled along the curb, shook his head, let out a deep sigh and pronounced, “We’ll survive.” Says it all.

  8. melissa

    As a resident of pine glen, i can say with out a doubt that our rntire neighborhood flooded as a result of the water release. We had up to 7 ft and some neighbors had 8 to 9. Some have been denied permits as they were over 50% including ours. Some appealed and won after lots of fighting for it. A few are condemned. Sunday the morning of, yards were flooded but only after the release from the dam did it flood out homes and contined on til Tues.


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