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Falls Lake Finally Full; Raleigh to Ease Restrictions

Posted April 6, 2008 11:01 a.m. EDT
Updated April 7, 2008 6:58 a.m. EDT

— Six rainy days last week helped fill up Falls Lake, Raleigh's water source, for the first time in 11 months.

Falls Lake rose more than 10 inches overnight Saturday to reach 252 feet Sunday, Raleigh Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp said. The lake is considered full at 251.5 feet.

The last time Falls Lake exceeded that level was in May 2007, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineer records. As recently as early March, the lake had been nearly 8 feet below normal.

The Raleigh City Council had given City Manager Russell Allen permission to ease rules and allow the use of hand-held hoses for watering once the lake reached 90 percent.

Mayor Charles Meeker said Sunday an official announcement on reverting to Stage 1 water restrictions is expected to be announced Monday morning.

Businesses that thrive outdoors couldn't be happier.

“No one is looking to have carte blanch lawn watering, (but) certainly have some watering and new landscape installation watering,” plant grower John Harmuth said.

The city adopted Stage 2 restrictions two months ago and eliminated all outdoor watering.

Since then, Harmuth has had to truck in well water for his Farmers Market plants.

“Customers have had to hesitate to purchase anything because they're afraid they can't water it,” he said.

When Raleigh reverts back to Stage 1, irrigation will be allowed one day per week. Residents will also be able to wash cars at home, on the weekends.

“We haven't washed our vehicles in a number of months. We would certainly like to see them get cleaned up,” resident Todd Johnson said.

Since Sunday a week ago, the National Weather Service has recorded 2.55 inches of rain at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and 4.35 inches in Fayetteville. Chapel Hill saw 1.37 inches, Durham received 1.51 inches, and Cary, Apex and Roanoke Rapids got around an inch.

Tuesday was the only day last week when the NWS did not record rain; Fayetteville saw a trace of rain, while Raleigh got none.

Other area lakes have benefited from the rain as well.

Jordan Lake, which serves Cary and Apex, has risen more than 1 1/2 feet since Friday morning. It was more than 3 feet above normal Sunday.

Lake Michie and the Little River Reservoir, Durham's water sources, were both also above their normal levels.

Kerr Lake in Henderson has risen at least 6 inches, bringing it up to around 303 feet. It is considered full at 301.5 feet.

The state has been in a drought since April 2007, as defined by the North Carolina Drought Management Advisory Council.

After the past week's rains, the Triangle is less than an inch behind its normal rainfall for this time of the year. At this point in 2007, the region's rainfall was 8.41 inches below normal.

The Triangle's rainfall deficit is 4.68 inches for the past 12 months and 8.3 inches since January 2007.