The cabins at the Kampgrounds of America site north of the Oktibbeha County Lake flooded this week, and some of the water had receded Thursday. Oktibbeha County experienced little flooding during this week's rains, but the water level in the lake approached a dangerous level a month after the levee showed early signs of breaching. Photo by: Tess Vrbin/Dispatch Staff
February 14, 2020 11:04:51 AM
OKTIBBEHA COUNTY -- County officials did not have to issue the second warning in a month for residents near the Oktibbeha County Lake dam to evacuate, after the lake lowered six inches Thursday.
Emergency Management Agency director Kristin Campanella had planned to issue a warning and a recommendation to evacuate the surrounding area Thursday night or this morning after storms on Monday and Wednesday elevated the water level above what it was Jan. 14, when county engineer Clyde Pritchard found a mudslide on the east side of the levee and determined the dam was in imminent danger of breaching.
Campanella said it was "great news" that EMA did not issue a warning.
"Hopefully this trend will continue for the next couple days as we are looking at more rain on Sunday into next week," she said.
A breach in the dam could flood 17,500 acres of nearby land and force about 250 people to evacuate at least 130 households. The First Baptist Church Outreach Center on South Jackson Street in Starkville opened as an American Red Cross-designated overnight shelter at 2 p.m. Tuesday for any residents of the area near the lake who want to evacuate.
The county installed four pipes in the lake on Jan. 14 and six diesel-fueled pumps Jan. 17 to siphon water from the lake at a combined rate of 55,000 gallons per hour over the levee into the emergency spillway. The pipes lowered the water level by five feet, and the county lifted the breach warning Jan. 20 after the water level had gone down four feet. However, the water had risen 8.5 feet Tuesday and continued to rise thanks to continuing rainfall and the 18-mile watershed that feeds the lake.
The force of the water broke two of the pipes, but the remaining two pipes and the six pumps are still at work, Campanella said. Water was flowing through the pumps faster on Thursday than through a creek that feeds the dam from the west side, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard said.
The county placed sandbags along County Lake Road on Jan. 19 to divert rainwater and stop the mudslide on the levee from progressing, and Campanella said Thursday this is most likely why there have been no changes to the slide.
The Kampgrounds of America site north of the lake flooded and forced the cabins to shut down, though it is unclear if the entire site is closed, Oktibbeha County Sheriff's Capt. Brett Watson said. The only other part of the county that experienced flooding during the more than six inches of rain this week was Ennis Road, south of Longview, Campanella said.
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