Lake Cumberland hits second-highest elevation in history and is expected to keep rising

Drone video shows Cumberland Falls flooding

The view from above Cumberland Falls after recent rains have left many rivers and lakes around Kentucky in flood stage.
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The view from above Cumberland Falls after recent rains have left many rivers and lakes around Kentucky in flood stage.

The water elevation at Lake Cumberland on Friday hit the second-highest level ever recorded since Wolf Creek Dam was finished nearly 70 years ago, and is approaching a record with continued rain expected.

The level as of 7 p.m. Friday was 748.38 feet above sea level, according to the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

The only other times the lake level has topped 745 feet were in April 1962, when it hit 747.12, and in May 1984, when it was 751.69, the record.

Under typical conditions, the lake fills to a level of 700 feet to 723 feet by mid-May.

However, heavy rain in the Cumberland River basin in Kentucky and Tennessee has meant more water coming into Lake Cumberland and also prevented the corps from letting a lot more water out of the dam because of conditions downstream.

The basin has received 2 to 5 inches of rain in the last four days, and up to a foot in places over the last month. More heavy rain is forecast in some areas in the next few days, according to the corps.

The corps said there were no concerns about the safety of Wolf Creek Dam.

The water level at Lake Cumberland is expected to continue going up over the next several days.

Many roads leading to the lake have been closed off, along with some recreation areas. The corps advised people to be careful when approaching those areas.

The corps announced Friday evening that it plans to increase water releases at Wolf Creek Dam in order to regain some flood-storage capacity in the lake.

The dam was discharging 36,200 cubic feet of water per second Friday afternoon, but the corps plans to increase that to 40,000, maybe as early as Sunday, and then 45,000 a day or two later, according to a news release.

The largest volume of water ever released from the dam was 40,000 cubic feet per second in January 1974.

“These increases are necessary because the lake is quickly filling up, and increasing releases in a controlled manner now reduces the likelihood of even greater releases being required in the future,” Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander for the Corps of Engineers, said in the release.

The increased discharge from the lake is expected to cause minor flooding in some areas, especially from Rowena to Burkesville.