Just the facts about Lake Norman

Lake Norman Real Estate: Lake Norman Flooding “Not Likely”

Lake Norman Bridge support with water level marker

  Potential Lake Norman waterfront home buyers ask me frequently about the range of water levels on Lake Norman as well as the possibility of flooding.   The very best resource regarding Lake Norman water levels bar none is Duke Energy’s Check Lake Norman Water Levels website which Duke Energy updates daily.  On this site you can get the actual lake levels of all 11 lakes that are part of the Catawba River System as well as the “target”” Lake Norman water level for that day, the minimum , maximum, range and any lake message updates.  They also provide a schedule of flow releases and other related data.  (Note, the picture above is of a pier on Slanting Bridge which has the lake level markers on it.  You can see that when I took this photo we were just one foot below full pond.)

It is important to understand first and foremost that Lake Norman is a result of the damming of the Catawba River back in 1963 when the Cowans Ford Dam was completed.  It is part of Duke Energy’s power resources and provides electricity to the Piedmont Carolinas by using the McGuire Nuclear Station and the Cowans Ford Hydroelectric Station at the south end of the lake and the Marshall Steam Plant on the west side at Highway 150.  The water levels, for the most part, are controlled by Duke Energy and normally vary less than 5 feet.

The maximum level is called “full pond” which is 760 feet above sea level. Duke Energy considers full pond to be the “the point at which the water begins to spill over the flood gate spillway.” You will sometimes hear waterfront homeowners refer to the “760 line”.

On the Lake Norman Water Level charts, full pond is considered 100.0.  Today Lake Norman is at 96.5′ which is 3.5 ‘ lower than full pond and .5′ higher than their target of 96’.  Duke Energy purposely lowers water levels seasonally to anticipate rain or melting of the winter snows that feed the entire Catawba River system.

There was an interesting article recently: Lake Inches Away From Flooding; But Not Likely which sheds further light on the possibility of flooding.  It was written right after Hurricane Ida when our lake levels were quite high.   While they were focusing on Lake Wylie, the article is also relevant to Lake Norman.  They interviewed Cotton Howell, director of the York County Emergency Operations Center.  He said “Duke’s management of Catawba River lakes is an advantage in flood control.  As far as the lake, of course, it’s a controlled lake…It has flood gates and control measures to prevent overflowing.” 

During our severe drought, our Lake Norman water levels got down to about 92.5′ which was extremely low for our lake.  Thankfully, the drought is behind us and water levels are usually on target unless they are dropped slightly in anticipation for an upcoming storm.

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