Texoma’s Thunder Water

After I dropped off my son at camp on July 8, I headed NW from Tyler to Lake Texoma, knowing that it was bursting at the seams with record flooding. This was not a disappointment, except that part which was a sad social commentary.

Texoma was overtopping its emergency spillway for only the third time in its history, and and this was with the nearby and very separate floodgates cranked wide open. The latter was absolutely amazing: a thunderous, full-throttle torrent that I never will forget. We often lose sense of the power of water until we see something like that! It made me feel awfully small, witnessing the deafening roar of water many times deeper than I am tall booming out of that dam with a power that reverberated through all senses. The Red River below more resembled the Niagara River below the falls, with whitewater rapids that would spook the most extreme daredevil kayaker. If you want to see what one of the biggest U.S. reservoirs is like in wide-open emergency release, I finally have posted those shots.

Folks were well behaved at the spillway, perhaps because it was fairly tame — just a few inches of water over a broad and gentle concrete slope. So what were several amongst a huge throng of beer-swilling rednecks doing at the floodgates a mile to the north? Dangling over and/or sitting astride the retaining fence as if it were a rodeo horse, absolutely unconcerned that they were seconds from plunging to a horrible death in the explosive deluge unfolding 20 feet below them. I mean, the ground was rumbling from the percussion of enough water blasting past us to fill three Olympic-size pools per second.

I didn’t take pictures of those boneheads performing their drunken stunts, so as not to encourage them any further. I was atypically apprehensive even while shooting from behind and alongside the railing. It required carrying both camera equipment and a substantial measure of trust — that the expert engineering of the spillway retaining wall was all that saved many square blocks of land from tearing off and going downriver faster than any escape would be conceivable. Such close access allowed me some good photography, but the cops really should have had the area next to those floodgates cordoned off. Folks with lots of brew and nothing else to do can’t be trusted to keep out of the jaws of danger.

Another impression I took home was that the Corps of Engineers did a good job designing and building Denison Dam!

Unfortunately we’ve just witnessed the result of not so robust engineering and/or construction, at least of any structure that should last more than 40 years…


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