As Memorial Day weekend nears, boat ramps at area lakes are closed; more rain expected this week

photo by: Clinton Lake, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

High water is pictured at Clinton Lake in this photo provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Monday, May 20, 2019.

At Perry Lake, where recent rains have forced the closing of boat ramps as well as 90% of the campsites, the park manager isn’t looking forward to more precipitation in the forecast.

But that’s what’s expected in the area in the next couple of days. On Monday Perry Lake was already at its third highest level in its 50-year history, said R.J. Harms, Army Corps of Engineers project manager for Perry and Clinton lakes. Water can’t be released into the Missouri River because of that river being at a high level.

Although it was still unknown where the heaviest rain would fall, Kevin Skow, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Topeka, was certain that heavy rain was coming to the area Monday evening through Tuesday. Lawrence could see 2 to 3 more inches of rain by Tuesday night, and more thunderstorms and showers are predicted through Sunday.

Since May 1, Lawrence has received 5.82 inches of rain, double its monthly average. The Kansas River at Lawrence was at 14.3 feet Monday and was expected to rise to 19.1 feet by Thursday if the anticipated rain falls in Lawrence, Skow said. That would put the river in minor flood stage but below the moderate flood stage, which is 20 feet.

Perry Lake is currently 22 feet above its normal summer level. Clinton Lake is 11 feet over its normal level with the beach and boat ramps closed. However, Clinton’s campsites are on higher ground and remain open, Harms said.

The rain will have a big impact on the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend, Harms said. With boat ramps closed, only those with boats in the marina will be able to be on the lake. However, they need to use extra caution, Harms said, because of logs and debris floating in the water. Plus, the shorelines are different when the lake is this high. People need to pay close attention to their surroundings.

“It’s hard to do anything on the water when the lake is this high,” Harms said. Currently at 913.5 feet above sea level, Perry reached its highest elevation in 1993 at 920.85 and second highest of 917.20 in 1973.

“We’re already soggy,” Skow said. Because of the already saturated ground from recent rain, the levels in many creeks and rivers around the area are elevated. Additional rainfall will likely lead to flash flooding. The area remains in a flash flood watch through Tuesday evening.

“People need to stay tuned,” Skow said. “The rainfall in different areas could significantly alter the forecast.”


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