Corps of Engineers releases more water from Table Rock Lake spillways

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NEAR BRANSON, Mo. -- New downpours triggered the Corps of Engineers to increase its spillway releases at Table Rock Dam.

The scenic view on Historic Highway 165 south of Branson gives you a wonderful vista of the area from its businesses and hotels to its golf courses and waterways. Monday one unusual sight was why most cars were pulling over to take pictures.

It was the sight of Table Rock Dame almost three miles away where almost nine million gallons of water per second was gushing through the spillway gates.

We drink it, bathe in it, and fish in it, but this water just had a spectacular look to it, drawing plenty of sightseers.

"It's such an awesome picture," said Judy Mosby of Branson as she watched the water cascade down the side of the concrete like a waterfall. "It looks like snow."

"That and how much water there really is coming out of there," added her husband Carl when asked why he'd come out to take a look.

"We've got nine gates open one-foot which is about 20,000 cubic feet per second," explained Park Ranger Ryan Braaten from the visitors center next to the dam. "To give you some perspective on that it's about a football field four-inches high of water every second."

Not only can you see the power of the water as it falls down the spillway, you can also feel it. When you're standing at the fish hatchery around 200 yards away from the dam, you feel a cool, waffling breeze that's caused by the millions of gallons of water creating a mist as it strikes the surface.

The decision to release water is very involved and, according to Braaten, is never done preemptively. In this case it was brought on by the recent heavy storms from this past week.

"We don't operate based on forecasts," he said. "We operate the dams based on when the water gets on the ground."

There are six dams along the White River Watershed that stretches from the Boston Mountains to the Mississippi River that figure into where water is released and the Corps of Engineers is quite aware that their decisions can cause flooding downstream.

"We can't prevent floods so we can only reduce the impact of the floods," Braaten explained. "So there are some areas that still get inundated when we do have to release water."

At the visitors center next to the dam, you can find out just how difficult their job is as there is a kiosk with a test you can take where you hear a specific scenario and decide where you would release the water.

A couple from Georgia tried it only to be told by the computer that their choice had destroyed homes and businesses and submerged agricultural areas.

"We made the wrong decision and may have to go into hiding," said Donald Evans, who tried it along with his wife Darlene. "We flooded everything downriver."

"That's a tough job what these guys do," Darlene added. "I couldn't do it."

Braaten pointed out that people who live downstream should monitor the lake levels to be aware of flooding conditions and said the Little Rock Corps of Engineer District also had apps available with lake levels.