Worries over dike stability as Tropical Storm Erika approaches

The National Weather Service update on Tropical Storm Erika as of 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28. Photo courtesy of National Weather Service Miami.

The National Weather Service update on Tropical Storm Erika as of 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28.
Photo courtesy of National Weather Service Miami.

After Tropical Storm Erika wreaked havoc on the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica Thursday night, Governor Rick Scott issued a state of emergency today for the state of Florida as the storm approaches.

Though the strength of Erika remains uncertain, the National Weather Service (NWS) in Miami predicts Erika will impact South Florida Sunday through Tuesday.

The main concern for Floridians with Erika will be the potential for flooding rainfall, said NWS.
Here in Clewiston, residents have raised concerns over the stability of the Herbert Hoover Dike as rain fills Lake Okeechobee.

The dike is currently under construction as the Army Corps of Engineers works to secure it. But the Corps said the lake is in a much better position to take on heavy rainfall than in past years.

“The good news is, for this year, the lake is not nearly as high as it’s been in the past two years. We’re at about 12.7 feet right now. That greatly reduces any sort of risk,” said John Campbell, public affairs specialist for the Corps.

Campbell said in the past, the lake has seen a three-foot rise in water level over a month-long period. Even if Erika were to dump enough rain to raise the lake level three feet, it is in a better position now to weather it.

As for the dike, Campbell said the Corps takes a lot of interventions to make sure the dike doesn’t fail, such as bringing in extra dirt and fill material. But he said the Corps has a high level of confidence concerning the stability of the dike with impending Tropical Storm Erika.

“We’re very confident in the stability in the dike,” said Campbell.

The Clewiston Navigation lock will close at 5 p.m. on Sunday in preparation for Erika. It will reopen when conditions allow.

As the storm approaches, residents are urged to take precautions and make sure they’re prepared during and after the storm.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends one gallon of water per person per day and recommends at least a three-day supply. Due to the very hot temperatures, extra water may be necessary and needs could even be doubled, according to FEMA.

Residents should also have a three-day supply of non-perishable foods and avoid foods that will make them thirsty. Make sure foods do not require refrigeration, cooking or water to prepare in case power outages occur during and after the storm.

Residents should also make sure to have flashlights and extra batteries, candles and matches, infant formula and diapers, extra food and water for pets, and a first aid kit.

Books, puzzles, board games and other activities are also recommended to keep kids and adults entertained during the storm.

For a complete list of emergency preparedness items, visit www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

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