A sustained system of heavy rain is raising new concerns as the water level at the Oktibbeha County Lake continues to rise and threaten the lake’s strained dam.
Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Director Kristen Campanella said she was informed by County Engineer Clyde Pritchard on Tuesday that the lake level has exceeded the level at which the initial landslide occurred, rising over eight and a half feet from the lowest elevations during the county’s efforts to drain the lake.
Over the last three weeks, emergency officials used multiple pumps running around the clock to lower the lake, but with intermittent bouts of heavy rain, the process has proven challenging.
She did say following an inspection Tuesday morning, no new signatures of distress had been detected at the dam. However, Pritchard and other county officials remain concerned for the dam’s structural integrity and the area remains under a watch status.
“We are continuing to monitor the lake levels along with other areas of flooding issues throughout the county,” she said.
Campanella said the Oktibbeha County Red Cross shelter opened at 2 p.m. Tuesday at the First Baptist Church Outreach Center on South Jackson Street.
While the shelter does not allow pets, the Oktibbeha County Humane Society will continue to house pets of the evacuees at its location on 510 Industrial Park Road.
Residents will need to call (662) 338-9093 to make arrangements before they bring them to the shelter.
To reach the shelter after business hours, call (662) 338-4971.
If the county is forced to issue mandatory evacuations, Campanella said, local law enforcement will ride through the areas under threat continuously with lights and sirens engaged to notify residents.
FLOODING AT KOA
As more rain drenched the area on Tuesday, flooding began to worsen at Starkville Kampgrounds of America (KOA), which is adjacent to the County Lake. At the campground, lake water had inundated a wide portion of the site, with numerous cabins submerged and water threatening the camper trailers in the park.
While Campanella said she has received reports that KOA has evacuated the campground area, several people staying in camper trailers were still on site Tuesday and the water slowly crept over the park.
“If it gets too high, I guess we’ll just have to go,” said one resident.
Campanella said in the latest update that Oktibbeha EMA was not able to confirm the evacuation, but said the water level was high and surrounding the cabin area earlier this morning.
Pumping efforts are expected to continue day and night in the hopes of lowering the water level, with previous estimations reported in the Starkville Daily News saying draining the lake could take anywhere from 22 to 24 days, with weather conditions remaining an ongoing variable until the situation is resolved.
It has also been reported that it will cost between $7 million and $8 million to fully repair the dam, with funding remaining a consistent topic of debate over the last several years.