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Army Corps already considering how hurricane season will factor into a high lake

Posted at 5:21 PM, Apr 01, 2024

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — As we start the month of April, we are only two months away from the start of hurricane season.

While we are on a pause for the next two weeks from water releases from Lake Okeechobee, the whole reason that water has been released over the last six weeks is to prepare the lake for the wet season and upcoming hurricane season.

Since releases began, the Army Corps got the lake down a little over a foot. But after the two week pause ends, the Corps will likely begin releasing in some capacity again.

And with the possibility of an active hurricane season, Jacksonville District Commander Col. James Booth is confident the decision they made was the right one.

"To potentially go into the wet season, June 1, we somewhere around 14.3, 14.5 feet,” said Col. Booth. “That is what our modeling is telling us. And we will see, there is some potential opportunities to come in even lower."

But still Col. Booth says it is not ideal.

"We would like to be lower,” said Col. Booth. “We would always like to be lower going into the storm season. We will have it down low enough that I am confident going into the storm season and be able to take the first few rain events."

But given the switch to La Nina in the coming months, and already above normal ocean water temperatures, the stage is set for a busy tropical season. While no one can forecast with 100% certainty where and when it comes to tropical systems, the Army Corps is already thinking ahead to possible scenarios.

"We could see 3, 4 feet of water coming into the lake depending on where a tropical event comes through,” said Col. Booth. “And if we only got 2 feet and we went into that at maybe 14 feet and the lake goes to 16 feet, like we get 2 feet of elevation. We might feel comfortable holding"

But if we got back up to 16 feet in say August, Col. Booth says we could see a round of high-volume releases to protect the Herbert Hoover Dike.

"That whole different scenario where we have a whole lot of hurricane season in front of us and we got a lake trending upwards, we might make the decision, depending on what our operations manual authorizes, we might go into high volumes releases to bring the lake levels down to reduce that risk,” said Col. Booth.

We will get the first hurricane season forecast from Colorado State University on April 4.