As drought ends, flooding begins
Sulphur River expect to crest flood stage this evening
By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor
July 10, 2007 - The drought at Cooper Lake has officially ended, but area residents have a new — and ironic — concern: floods.
Sulphur Springs City Manager Marc Maxwell this morning sent to local press and media outlets an e-mail that included an image showing total rainfall amounts for the area.
"This is how the drought ended, with a direct hit on Cooper Lake," Maxwell wrote.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers listed the elevation at the lake this morning at 440.06 feet. The lake is considered at full capacity at 440 feet.
Ironically, after an extendsive drought, area residents now have something else to worry about — flooding along the Sulphur River.
The National Weather Service issued a flood warning this morning that will continue through Wednesday morning for areas along both the North and South Sulphur rivers. The flood warning pertains to parts of Hopkins, Delta and Lamar counties.
"Recent heavy rainfall combined with additional heavy rainfall this morning from a line of strong thunderstorms is causing the rivers to rise," forecasters wrote in the warning issued at 8:44 a.m. today. "This line of storms will produce one to two inches of rainfall over the river basins."
At 7:15 a.m. today, the Sulphur River was at 15.09 feet, according to the warning. The flood stage is 16 feet. The rivers was forecast to rise above flood stage this morning and expected to crest this evening near 16.5 feet but fall back below flood stage later tonight. The last time the river hit 16.5 feet was Oct. 23, 2002, following a weekend when 7 inches of rain fell in Sulphur Springs.
Once the river reaches 16 feet, minor out-of-bank flooding will occur, and a few rural roads will begin to flood, the warning states.
The county was already under a flash flood warning before the caution about the Sulphur River was issued. In keeping with the weird weather, the warning was set to expire at 3 p.m., then cancelled at noon, and one minute later extended to 1:30 p.m.
The flash flood warning explained that excessive runoff from approaching storms could cause flooding of small creeks and streams, highways and underpasses, among other places.
"Country roads and farmlands along the banks of creeks and streams and other low lying areas are subject to flooding," forecasters wrote in the warning. "Do not drive your vehicle into areas where the water covers the roadway. The water depth may be too great to allow your car to cross safely. Turn around — don't drown."
Some roads in northern Hopkins County have already been underwater due to recent rains. Those include FM 71 west near the Hunt County line, and County Road 4760 near the Cherry Grove community north of Sulphur Springs.
Other problem areas local emergency officials anticipate could flood include the areas near East Caney around County Roads 3340 and 3341.
Wet conditions along State Highway 19 north have caused problems, as well. Texas Department of Transportation workers had to be dispatched to the Birthright area this morning after a tree fell onto the road.
If all that's not enough, expect to encounter some unusually warm conditions over the next few days. While the high temperatures aren't forecast above 93 degrees, the heat index is expected to push apparent temperatures to as high as 102.
More rain is in the forecast for tonight and Wednesday, according to forecasters. And then ...
"After a brief respite, a rare summertime cold front will approach North Texas Friday or Saturday, bringing another chance of thunderstorms," forecasters wrote.