Floodgates opened at Lake Ellsworth - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Floodgates opened at Lake Ellsworth

LAKE ELLSWORTH, Okla._It's hard to believe just two weeks ago, Lake Ellsworth was at 43 percent capacity. Wednesday, the floodgates are open.

The City of Lawton made the decision to release water from the lake after the capacity reached a potentially dangerous level. Right now, it's at 117 percent. It's the first time the gates have been opened to release water since 2009.

When the gates opened at Lake Ellsworth, residents along East Cache Creek braced for flooding, and in past years they've seen the water flow over fields and creep right into their homes. It's a decision that officials say must be made or the repercussions would be much higher.

"There will be some flooding anytime we open the gate, but it won't be as severe as a dam breach," explained Afsaneh Jabbar, Lawton Public Works.

Jabbar says city's policy specifically dictates when they will open the dam gates, how many gates they'll open and how much water they'll release, all based on the lake's water elevation.

"We try very, very hard to stay with the policy," said Jabbar.

That's because going over certain elevations could cause a breach of the dam. In 2012, they did a study on what that would mean for everyone downstream.

"It shows how much flooding we are going to have and how bad it's going to get and how high it's going to get if we lose the dam," said Jabbar.

A worst case scenario where the dam did breach could mean East Cache Creek flooding all the way into the city of Lawton.

"It's better to have a small amount of flooding than risk the breach of the dam," said Jabbar.

The floodgates could be closed Thursday if the water gets to a certain level, but they're likely to be re-opened over the weekend with the expected rainfall.

County emergency management is monitoring the areas that normally flood when East Cache Creek rises and are ready to take action if needed.

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