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Recent rain fills East Texas lakes, Sabine River

By by Jessica Ferguson
March 28, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Severe drought conditions took a toll on East Texas rivers and lakes this past year, but with consistent rainfall during the past month, levels appear headed back to normal.

The National Weather Service reports the region has recently received about 7 inches of rain. Officials say 15 to 18 inches of rain are needed to bring the area out of drought.

Lake O' the Pines, Caddo Lake and Lake Palestine are full and slightly overflowing, officials report. Martin Creek Lake and Lake Tawakoni are almost full.

These conditions are considered normal for the area, said Mark Wentzel, team leader for instream flows with the Texas Water Development Board. The water levels at the lakes are the highest the region has seen since La Niña left Texas high and dry last year.

"East Texas is still in moderate drought, but showing improvement," Wentzel said.

Area lakes are 95 percent full, up 12 percent from February and up 30 percent from late November, when the drought was at its worst.

The Sabine River also is showing improvement. The river is at minor flood stage and was measured at 29.92 feet Wednesday near Gladewater - about four inches above the 26-inch flood level.

The Sabine River is expected to crest at 30.2 feet about 1 p.m. today.

"If the rain continues to come at the current pace, East Texas can expect to be out of drought within the next three months," Wentzel said. "The only part of Texas doing better than East Texas is the North Central Region, which is already out of drought."

The rain and increased water levels have brought out more people to area lakes for recreation.

"If we can keep it around this level, we're hoping for a good summer," said Lyda Edwards, co-owner of Johnson Creek Marina at Lake O' the Pines.

Drought conditions are not expected to be as big of a threat this year. The La Niña conditions blamed for the 2011 drought are expected to disappear by the end of April.



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