Was the Catawba River and Mountain Island Flooding Avoidable?

A week after the flood, residents along the Catawba River and Mountain
Island Lake continue their dry-out and clean-up. By many meteorologists’
accounts, the area experienced a forecasted large rain even last Friday through
Sunday (June 7-9) that ultimately, after the release of waters by Duke Energy
on the southern end of Lake Norman, caused a sudden, rapid, and unprecedented
surge of water south down the Catawba River. Coastal residents living along
Mountain Island Lake and the Catawba River south of Mountain Island Lake
experienced rises in water in excess of 10 feet over a few hour period. Some
point to the above average rainfall as the cause of the flooding. Others
suggest Duke Energy mismanaged the release of water from Lake Norman, including
ineffectively releasing water from the lake prior to the storm.

In anticipation of large rain events, Duke will release
water to the south through its series of lake and dams. The reason is simple.
By lowering the lake levels prior to large storms, the lakes can support more
rainfall and storm runoff, thus reducing the potential for flooding along the
rivers and lakes. For example, in the week prior to the onslaught of Hurricanes
Florence and Michael, the water level of Lake Norman was lowered several feet
below its flood stage, which is particularly important given the size of Lake
Norman. Many believe more could have been done to lower the lake levels in
light of the predicted rainfall.

Still others are concerned about the apparent lack of more
timely notice to affected property owners.  Most residents were initially
advised to expect minor flooding. With what seemed to be each passing hour last
Sunday, Duke continuously revised its forecast to increase the expected flood
forecast. It wasn’t until flooding was occurring that Duke finally conceded the
flooding could be catastrophic. At that point, it was too late for upwards of
hundreds of residents.