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New bells, whistles, lights alert public to Watauga Dam operation

September 26th, 2011 10:36 pm by Staff Reports

ELIZABETHTON — A new warning system installed by the Tennessee Valley Authority on Watauga Dam went into operation on Monday. The system is designed to alert the public to water discharges from the dam.
The system includes signs, warning horns and strobe lights to alert the public to the discharges, which can cause rapid rise in water levels below the dam. The warning horns will not be activated at night so nearby residents will not be disturbed.
Existing warning systems at 11 other dams are also being modified to activate only strobe light warning systems at night prior to water level changes. New signs will inform the public that the warning sirens or horns will not be used during nighttime hours. These changes should be completed by Oct. 30 at the following dams: Appalachia, Blue Ridge, Cherokee, Douglas, Fort Patrick Henry, Great Falls, Norris, Ocoee No. 1, South Holston, Tims Ford and Wilbur.
“During daylight hours, the horns and strobe lights will be automatically activated prior to water level changes as a safety warning to the public. When the operating systems are activated, anglers and the public should quickly move to safe areas,” TVA senior Vice President for River Operations John McCormick said. “At night, only the strobe lights will activate at these 12 dams to reduce noise at local residences. The warning systems at the other eight tributary dams and the nine dams on the Tennessee River will not change.”
Also being modified is the existing spillway system warning system at Wilbur Dam. The powerhouse at Wilbur Dam has four generating units. Three are operated manually and the fourth is operated remotely from TVA’s power control center in Chattanooga. The TVA is modifying the warning system to activate automatically when unit for is turned on. Site personnel will continue to monitor downstream activity before the three manually controlled units are used. Wilbur Dam is located just downstream from Watauga Dam.
For more information about avoiding the dangers surrounding dams, locks and powerhouses, go to

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