MANATEE — Heavy rainfall this week pushed the Manatee River to flood stage and, coupled with release of water from Lake Manatee, caused several homeowners on Woodstock Road near Rye Road Bridge to evacuate.
But meteorologists are predicting the river to begin dropping today and for Woodstock Road and other areas downstream of the dam to return to normal.
In other parts of the county — particularly around inundated Anna Maria Island — high water from Wednesday receded, and roads were opened.
Officials at the Lake Manatee Dam decided to release some water Thursday to bring the lake from its 40-foot full level to 39 feet, allowing it to handle more rain, said Bruce MacLeod, water treatment plant superintendent.
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The scattered thunderstorms predicted today through Sunday probably should not challenge the lake, MacLeod added.
The holiday forecast
Weather forecasters in Ruskin predicted a 50 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms this afternoon, with the percentage decreasing in the evening and over the weekend.
On Saturday and Sunday, there was a 30 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms in the afternoons, the National Weather Service said late Thursday.
During the weekend, there is no prediction of the all-day storms of mid-week.
A NWS forecaster warned Fourth of July revelers and beach-goers that the heat index in Manatee County on Saturday was predicted to be 110 with the air temperature reaching a high in the lower 90s.
This week, rain gauges in Lakewood Ranch recorded 10 inches of rain, and five inches just Wednesday, said operations director Ryan Heise.
Fueled by Wednesday’s rains, Manatee River hit 12.6 feet Thursday, reaching the foundations of some homes in the area, said John McMichael, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin.
The river’s safe level is 11 feet.
Anna Maria Island
A day after water flooded many parts of the Anna Maria Island, especially in Holmes Beach, where Holmes Beach police closed several roads that were under water, things got back to normal Thursday.
Holmes Beach officials said all roads were re-opened in the city and most of the standing water had receded from streets. Ditches that remained filled with water did serve as a reminder of the downpour the island faced Wednesday.
Measuring Braden River
Ryan Hollins and Jonathan Newby, both hydrologic technicians for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Tampa office, were standing on the bridge Thursday at Lakewood Ranch Boulevard spanning the Braden River, dropping instruments into the water that measured data, such as the river’s water flow rates.
“This is the highest we’ve seen this stream get since we’ve been monitoring it,” said Hollins, who said he recorded the rate of the river’s flow at 1,060 cubic feet per second.
Once they took their readings, Hollins opened a solar-powered instrument box perched on the river’s bank and uploaded the information to a satellite, which then sent it back to USGS offices, where it will be assembled and used by various agencies to determine chances of flooding and other factors affecting the drainage basin of the 21-mile-long river.
Some of those agencies include the Manatee County Natural Resources Department and government meteorologists, who use the data to forecast the chance of flooding, Hollis said.
When the pair pulled up their instruments and loaded them back into their truck, they headed off to measure the headwaters of the Myakka River.
Myakka Head also floods
Myakka Head north of Myakka City hit flood stage at 14.6 feet, well above its 11-foot limit, McMichael said.
The Little Manatee River in Wimauma reached 13.5 feet, also above its 11-foot level.
The 12.6-foot level for Rye Bridge is just below the 12.8 inches it takes to reach the roadway, McMichael said.
But the level was high enough to swamp Woodstock Road once water came flowing down from the dam.
“There were two residents down there and we asked them to get out just in case their road went under,” said MacLeod.
Tampa International Airport recorded 4.72 inches of rain Wednesday, the most on July 1 since records were kept in 1890.
Locally, 1.28 inches were recorded at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Tuesday, 2.31 inches Wednesday and a third of an inch Thursday, McMichael said.
Although the rain was well needed, it doesn’t pull the region out of its entrenched drought. Manatee and Sarasota counties are still 6.68 inches of rain below normal for the year, McMichael said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917. Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 708-7908.