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Upper Northeast Tennessee not named by TVA for potential flooding from heavy rain this week

Becky Campbell • Updated Feb 18, 2019 at 8:46 PM

The Tennessee Valley Authority expects major flood stages along its river system, but the alerts don’t target Northeast Tennessee lakes.

“Heavy rainfall and high runoff later in the week will cause the Tennessee River to rise to flood stage at some locations,” the TVA announced Monday on its Facebook page. “Major flood stage is forecasted below Pickwick Dam in West Tennessee, including the stretch of river between Savannah and Perryville. High river conditions are also expected in the Shoals area of Alabama. Property owners along the river should prepare for flood conditions.”

The system posted river stage information for Chattanooga, South Pittsburg, Savannah, Clifton and Perryville in Tennessee and Whitesburg and Florence in Alabama.

“After record rainfall in 2018, we are seeing much of the same so far in early 2019,” said James Everett, senior manager for TVA’s River Forecast Center. “With above average rainfall totals on already-saturated ground possible next week, we are moving lots of water through the system to create as much storage as possible in our reservoirs while also limiting flows to protect downstream areas.”

According to the TVA website, “TVA has been monitoring this system closely since early last week and spilling or sluicing water from its tributary reservoirs — including Apalachia, Cherokee, Douglas, Melton Hill and Norris — to create more storage for expected rainfall. At the same time, TVA has been spilling water through all dams on the main stem of the Tennessee River to accommodate the tributary releases to come. TVA continues to manage releases from Kentucky Dam to support flood control operations on the Ohio River.”

When the heaviest rains hit, TVA will use the storage space it created in the tributary reservoirs to hold back water as it manages high flows along the main stem, the utility said. Even so, the heavy rains expected could raise both tributary and main stem reservoirs to summer pool or above later this week. 

But what about Watauga, South Holston and Boone lakes? 

While several systems of moisture are expected to bring 5 to 10 inches of rainfall to parts of the Tennessee Valley through next weekend, the forecast for Northeast Tennessee stood at around 2 to 3 inches. And while there was sunshine Monday, the remainder of the week looks pretty wet, according to Nes Levotch, director of the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Management Agency.

Levotch said creek spillage and flash flooding is likely this week, but the majority of the flood threat was further down the river system.

“We’re waiting for updates from the National Weather Service. They’ve decreased the amount of rain they say we’re going to get. The last thing I saw ... was Thursday through Saturday, it’s showing we could get 2 to 3 inches up here,” Levotch said.

He is keeping an eye on the Nolichucky River, which was up about 3.3 feet, he said. Flood stage is 12 feet, but if the river reaches seven to eight feet above normal flow, officials will start watching it more closely.

“People need to look out for flooded areas,” Levotch said. “Don’t cross through flooded areas, and don’t go around roadblocks.”

According to TVA, some of the expected impacts across the Valley this week include:

  • Tributaries may rise to summer pool or higher, especially Blue Ridge, Chatuge, Fontana, Hiwassee, Norris, Nottelly and South Holston.
  • Levels on the Tennessee River main stem river pools will also rise sharply in response to heavy rain.
  • Chattanooga will see elevated river levels but is expected to remain below flood stage. Depending on rainfall, levels could rise to near flood stage by Friday.
  • Significant flooding, resulting from some of the highest river levels in decades, is expected in North Alabama and below Pickwick Dam from Savannah to Johnsonville.
  • TVA will coordinate releases from Kentucky Dam with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to support the Corps’ management of the Ohio River. As a result, Kentucky Reservoir could rise above summer pool.
  • There may be significant flooding along the unregulated portions of rivers below dams, especially Tims Ford Dam on the Elk River and Normandy Dam on the Duck River, as well as other locations in western North Carolina and north Georgia, including Copperhill and McCaysville.
  • High water flows could force lock closures on all lower main stem rivers to protect public safety and transportation. 

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