Manatee rivers flood after Hurricane Ian. Gates opened at Lake Manatee Dam

The flood gates at the Lake Manatee Dam were open on Thursday, releasing 7,000 cubic feet of water per second into the Manatee River in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and heavy rainfall the area has experienced in recent weeks.

Releases have been underway for about three days, but started very minimally, said Amy Tilson of the Manatee County Utilities Department.

Lake Manatee — covering 1,800 acres — opened in 1967 and contains 7.5 billion gallons of water, enough for the drinking needs of more than 250,000 people.

Water is released from the dam if the water level in the lake gets too high.

Thursday, the Manatee River was flooding at Rye Bridge and along property off Upper Manatee River Road..

At 17 feet, water could reach the foundations of elevated homes and the Christian Retreat center.

Mark Stukey, owner of Ray’s Canoe Hideaway, next door to Christian Retreat, watched the Manatee River flowing swiftly past his property and into his rental office.

The flood waters weren’t as high as in 2003 when the water flowed in through the windows of the rental office, Stukey said, as he a paused from cleaning up fallen branches left on his property by Ian.

Upper Manatee River Road near Rye Road, and parts of Waterline Road were still under water Thursday.

Flood warnings were also issued for the Manatee River near Myakka Head at State Road 64 East and the Myakka River At Myakka River State Park .

An additional danger in East Manatee Thursday were traffic lights left dark by power outages, resulting in several accidents when drivers failed to stop at an intersection. In addition, power lines and poles were down along a portion of State Road 64 near Dam Road.

Mark Stukey watches the Manatee River overflow its banks and flood his business, Ray’s Canoe Hideaway off Upper Manatee River Road, on Thursday.
Mark Stukey watches the Manatee River overflow its banks and flood his business, Ray’s Canoe Hideaway off Upper Manatee River Road, on Thursday.
Upper Manatee River Road near Rye Road was closed by high waters on Thursday. It’s not uncommon for that stretch of water to be underwater during heavy rainfall.
Upper Manatee River Road near Rye Road was closed by high waters on Thursday. It’s not uncommon for that stretch of water to be underwater during heavy rainfall.
The flood gates at the Lake Manatee Dam were open on Thursday, releasing 7,000 cubic feet of water per second into the Manatee River in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and recent heavy rains.
The flood gates at the Lake Manatee Dam were open on Thursday, releasing 7,000 cubic feet of water per second into the Manatee River in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and recent heavy rains.