Category Archives: Lake Thunderbird

Enough is enough!





This was the lake level on May 10th.highwater




This is the lake level today. Soils are now 100% saturated down to 32″. We’ve had 21.63″ of rain for the month, and it’s still raining. The drought is well and truly busted. Now we’re dealing with periodic house flooding when the rain comes down in buckets and just has no place to go.  Last night using a Shopvac, and 32 towels of various sizes, we sopped up some eighty gallons of water inside the house and some carpets still got soaked. When the rainfall rate is light to medium, my swales and diversion ditches can handle the runoff, but when the rainfall rate gets up to an inch an hour, all my efforts are quickly overwhelmed.  Last night we got six inches of rain in roughly six hours.  It was a crazy amount of rain, and there was no stopping it from getting into the house.

Speaking of water…

While I’m trying to stay cool and dry to recover from Poison Ivy, I thought I’d catch up on some events that have occurred at Windhaven. How did an experienced biologist get a bad case of Poison Ivy, you ask? Well let me tell you.

Last weekend as the flood waters reached their maximum in Lake Thunderbird, 1048.23 feet AMSL, Jim and I made plans to go kayaking. The Saturday morning was perfect: sunny, not too hot, no wind. We set in just about ten feet off the road and paddled across the meadow to the willow trees that bordered the lake. The lake was pure glass and a little disorienting because the normal landmarks were deep underwater. We paddled across the lake and poked around some of inlets and bays. We could cut through the forest to get from one bay to another. A little trickier now that the water was into the crowns of the understory and all the fallen trees were floating on the surface. The smaller trees were easy enough to paddle over or push out of the way, but the floating mats of bamboo cane had to be circumnavigated.

Then we headed down to the corner of the our block. When you look at the photo it looks like a serene bay, when in actuality, it’s over four feet of water covering a road. The fauna quickly moved in to take advantage of the new niche. I saw several species of sunfish, and a large gar swam under my boat. Fish fry were swimming in the shallows and there were swarms of tiny boatmen bugs in the water.

Another portion of the road was flooded over this rise and we managed to get to it by kayaking through the forest from the lakeside.

This is our proof that we really are on a road. The duckweed accumulated on the east end of the Lindsey St. from the prevailing winds, but there was still a lot in the forest itself (future fertilizer) and you could hear the carp in the forest sucking it up.

After a nice chat with a neighbor who was also checking out the floodwater, we headed back out to the lake and into the other flooded portion of the street, where Peter met us with Odo. Odo loves Jim and trotted right out into the water to meet him (Odo is not the most confident dog when it comes to water).

This water was hip deep, and a good place for Odo to wade. So Jim and I coaxed him out until his back legs were floating. I thought we’d cajoled him as far as he’d go so I turned back and told Odo we’d go see Peter. That’s when the trouble started. I guess in Odo’s little dog mind he thought trees meant dry land and started angling off the road towards the forest. Unfortunately the road is considerably higher than the forest floor, and before I could stop him he was swimming into the woods and inevitably got caught up on a submerged shrub. I hesitated a few moments, hoping in vain that he’d get himself free … of course not. Luckily I was wearing shoes and I plunged into the woods before he started to panic. As the water rose to my chest, I looked down to see a lush hedge of briars and poison ivy. My only thought was “Oh well, what choice have I got”, and I pushed through it. The water was neck deep by the time I reached Odo, still swimming in the shrub. I lifted him over the shrub by his collar and he continued to swim as I lead him back to the road. He was still tangled, and I lifted him up with an arm under his chest and removed the vines that were caught around his hips. As I walked up the embankment, still with ann arm under his chest, the dog continued to swim, even though all four feet were out of the water (some autonomic reflex?).

Odo was no worse for wear but I had all kinds of scratches and punctures, and sure enough within two days I had the beginnings of a bad Poison Ivy reaction. As I scratch my numerous lesions, I take consolation in that I took one for the family, in rescuing our silly dog.

Water, water …

Lots of water here in Oklahoma for a change, Unfortunately, it’s not staying in the stream- and riverbeds and many folks have been flooded out.

Windhaven is fortunate to have been spared. We are a few hundred feet from Lake Thunderbird, a man-made lake that serves as the main drinking water supply for a number of central Oklahoma cities (not OKC, though). The current level can be found by clicking the Lake Level link over on the left side.

For reference, the very top of the dam is at 1071′ Above Mean Sea Level. Our front yard, OTOH, is 1115′ AMSL. Should the water from the lake ever reach our front yard, the entire dam itself would have to be some 44 feet underwater, which would result in the flooding (to a depth of many tens or hundreds of feet) of almost all of central Oklahoma.

As of this writing, the water is at 1045.05′.

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t be inconvenienced, though. Already, the road out of our neighborhood to the southwest is blocked by about 1′ of water. That’s not our usual way out, but there is another low spot to our east which is our usual way out. The lake will not have to rise more than another 5′ or so for that road to be blocked.

Update: Forgot to mention … the recent low point of the lake was at the height of the drought last December when the lake level fell to 1030.40′, nearly 15′ below where it is today!


Norman isn’t really a small town, either in population (about 100,000 plus OU students) or in area (about 190 square miles). Yet, it still seems small-townie. Likely, this is due to the city’s history.

Norman was settled (after the 1889 Land Run) on either side of the Santa Fe Railway tracks that bisect old Norman. In the 1890s, the town was picked as the site for the University of Oklahoma. Because of these two events most of “old Norman” is within a mile or two of the tracks. Houses there are pretty much what you’d expect of a small town.

In the 1960s, the city expanded greatly to protect the area around Lake Thunderbird 7+ miles east of downtown. Ironically, while the lake is the city’s primary source of drinking water, the area of the city surrounding the lake is all well-and-septic!

The western part of town, west of Interstate 35, is almost all tract housing that started going up in the 1970s (from looking at the architecture) and is still going up this minute.

Windhaven is in rural east Norman.