Few images capture the unique nature of this week’s flooding in the Ozarks better than the photos and videos Phil Lilley posted Tuesday on Facebook.
A video shows him fishing from a sliding window in the sun room of his house on Lake Taneycomo — a day that brought lakefront living to a whole different level.
“Our house is usually about 40 feet from the water and 20 feet above it,” said Lilley, who, along with his wife, runs Lilleys’ Landing Resort and Marina in Branson. “But the water is within casting distance now.
“It’s a seven-foot drop, but I have a good shot at the slow-eddied water over our road,” Lilley wrote in a Facebook post. “No snags over pavement. And the fish are liking the slower current.”
The video showed Lilley casting from his sun room with a Christmas tree and the comforts of home just a few feet away. In the foreground, a torrent of water that was released from Table Rock Lake rushed down the channel of Lake Taneycomo.
Lilley caught several fat rainbow trout at the edge of that current line — from undoubtedly one of the strangest casting platforms he has ever used.
That’s called making the best out of a bad situation.
Lilley is no stranger to flooding. Over the years, he and his wife, Marsha, have prepared to evacuate several times after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been forced to release floodwater from Table Rock Lake into Lake Taneycomo.
This may be a low point, though. After the Table Rock area got hammered with almost 10 inches of rain in three days (Saturday, Sunday and Monday), rivers and creeks spilled out of their banks and flood-control reservoirs were bulging with water.
At its worst point, the Corps of Engineers said, 350,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water was coming into Table Rock, the popular recreation lake near Branson. The level soared to the top of the flood pool and required the corps to release water at a record rate of 73,000 cfs. Those heavy releases continued Wednesday, sending a churning rush of water below the dam into Lake Taneycomo.
Private docks tore loose from their moorings and floated downstream, and 300 lakefront homes became islands in Taneycomo, according to Jim Sandberg, operations manager for the Corps of Engineers at Table Rock. Those residences were either inaccessible because of flooded roads or had taken on water.
Lilley considers himself fortunate — for now.
His docks have withstood the worst of it, and only a few of his resort units have taken on water.
“You just have to roll with it,” he said. “After the water levels go down, we don’t anticipate it being that long before we’re out and catching fish again.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, Table Rock was still above the flood pool and was 17 feet above normal. Taneycomo also was near record elevations and was churning with floodwater.
But Sandberg said the worst appears to be over. Table Rock crested Tuesday afternoon, he said, and the forecast calls for dry weather in the immediate future. Now it’s just getting rid of that floodwater.
Table Rock and Taneycomo aren’t the only places where the corps is dealing with that problem.
▪ The water level also is near the top of the flood pool at Beaver Lake in northwest Arkansas, and heavy releases are being made.
▪ At Pomme de Terre Lake in southwest Missouri, the water was 23 feet, 10 1/2 inches high as of Wednesday afternoon. Private boat docks were damaged and some marinas were islands, with flooded walkways leaving them inaccessible.
“I can’t even get to my boat right now,” said Earle Hammond, who has guided on Pomme de Terre for 15 years. “It’s still parked in its stall (at a marina), but there’s no way to get there from land.
“I would need to get a boat ride from someone to even reach it.”
▪ In the Ozarks, Bull Shoals Lake (17 feet high) and Norfork Lake (15.7 feet high) also have felt the brunt of the heavy rains.
▪ Truman Lake is 14 feet high and is projected to climb 3 feet in the next several days.
▪ Lake of the Ozarks climbed rapidly in the midst of the heavy rain, with water rising into lakefront landowners’ lawns and affecting docks. The water there is dropping from the heavy releases into Truman Lake.
Perhaps Hammond summed up Ozarks residents’ feelings best.
“It’s been gloomy for the most part now for more than a week,” he said. “We’re ready for some sun and dry weather. No more rain.”