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  • Rain sets record; flooding is miminal

    Reservoirs are filling fast, but mountain snowpack remains far below normal
  • Sunday's heavy rains set a record in Medford and swelled Southern Oregon streams, replenishing parched reservoirs but resulting in little if any flooding as waters receded Monday.
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  • Sunday's heavy rains set a record in Medford and swelled Southern Oregon streams, replenishing parched reservoirs but resulting in little if any flooding as waters receded Monday.
    The persistent March rains will mean high water releases into the Rogue River to slow the filling of Lost Creek Lake that just two months ago was woefully low.
    The National Weather Service measured 1.38 inches of rain Sunday at the Medford airport, easily eclipsing that day's record of .59 inches set in 1947, according to the Weather Service.
    The only report of any flooding was a back-up of Little Butte Creek water along a wayside just upstream of where it flows under Highway 62 in Eagle Point, according to the Weather Service.
    "The rain was spread out over enough time that the flashy kind of flooding didn't hit," Weather Service meteorologist Sven Nelaimischkies said.
    Some minor flooding, however, was reported along the Southern Oregon coast and in California's western Siskiyou County, the Weather Service reported.
    The Rogue River at Dodge Bridge near Eagle Point was moving at more than 11,000 cubic feet per second Monday morning, well shy of the bank-full flow of about 20,000 cfs, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
    The steady rain did trigger the highest runoff so far this season into Lost Creek and Applegate lakes, which are Jackson County's largest reservoirs feeding the Rogue Basin.
    Lost Creek's inflows peaked at more than 10,500 cfs and pushed the reservoir level Monday to 12 feet from full — more than 5 feet above the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' schedule for filling the reservoir May 1.
    The lake could rise an additional 4 feet as runoff from Sunday's storms plays out this week, triggering higher than normal water releases into the Rogue River.
    Once the tributary flows to the Rogue peaked early Monday morning, Corps hydrologists scheduled Lost Creek out-flows into the Rogue to increase incrementally from 2,800 cfs Monday to 3,800 cfs this afternoon — a level that would leave the Rogue higher than normal there for mid-March even without the addition of any natural tributary flows, according to the NRCS.
    To reduce the lake's volume to match the filling schedule, the Corps will shave the lake down by keeping out-flows high at Lost Creek Dam, Corps hydrologist Alan Donner said.
    "I'm hoping to be able to hold it right there into next week," Donner said.
    At Applegate Lake, the peak in-flows were about 2,600 cfs early Monday morning, not only boosting that reservoir to its normal filling schedule for the first time this year but also eclipsing it by nearly 3 feet, according to the Corps.
    That reservoir could rise an additional 2 feet above the filling schedule later this week, Donner said. To curb that filling rate, the Corps bumped releases into the Applegate River from a bare minimum of 80 cfs to 500 cfs today, Donner said.
    That 500-cfs level also likely will remain into next week, he said.
    The Corps had been locked at minimum releases there since January, when the reservoir levels were more than 40 feet lower than normal for mid-winter.
    While Sunday's storm aided reservoir levels and inched up the water year-to-date to 70 percent of average, it did little if anything for the snowpack that was listed Monday at 29 percent of average — far below what's needed for a normal summer of natural stream flow.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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