Tuttle Creek water levels near normal a year after floods threatened Kansas, the Midwest

The Tuttle Creek Dam in 2018. Last spring, several lakes in the Army Corp of Engineers system were reaching capacity as precipitation levels across the Midwest hit unbearable thresholds. (Archive Photo Rachel Kamm | Collegian Media Group)

About a year ao, Tuttle Creek Lake was heavily impacted by the flooding in neighboring Nebraska — it measured in at 29.56 feet above its normal water line.

It was the longest continuous flooding duration since the formation of the lake system, Brian McNulty, operation project manager at Tuttle Creek Lake, said.

“We were in the middle of a flood fight for the better part of eight or nine months,” McNulty said.

The lake currently stands 7.5 feet above normal capacity and there’s room for about 60 feet above the average level. Right now, McNulty said, the flood pools are at about five percent full. This time a year ago, they were 50 percent full.

Although the lakes are currently regulated and secure, McNulty said there’s no way to know for sure what the precipitation will look like over the next 16 weeks.

“April, May, June and July historically are the four months that we get the most amount of rain in this region,” McNulty said. “It does look like we are in a pretty normal precipitation pattern right now so if that holds true, we should have plenty of space to hold flood waters.”

The Kansas River is fairly dry compared to surrounding areas. McNulty said the north end of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana still have quite a bit of water coming through the Missouri River.

“Right now, they are only 15 or 16 percent full, but they are still continuing to release water, mainly from snow melt,” McNulty said.

COVID-19 has changed operations a little. McNulty said the state park has adopted a “pack-in, pack-out” policy. Since restrooms are closed and trash pickup has come to a halt, visitors are required to take out everything they bring in. Handwashing and sanitizer stations have also been added around the park.

“Visitors are doing a great job of social distancing,” Lovin said. “The typical nature of camping is to get away from people.”