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UPDATED: Watauga Lake may rise to record levels this weekend

John Thompson • Updated May 20, 2020 at 11:31 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Rain’s in the forecast through Saturday, setting the stage for a possible all-time high water level for Watauga Lake on Sunday.

The previous high water mark on the lake was 1,967.06 feet, in 2013.

The lake level was reported at 1,960.10 feet at 9 a.m. Wednesday and had risen to 1,960.39 by 4 p.m. Wednesday. South Holston Lake is also expected to rise by 3 or 4 feet by Sunday.

While the water level of Watauga Lake has already reached summer levels for Memorial Day, the Tennessee Valley Authority River Forecast Center expects Watauga Lake to rise seven to eight feet between Wednesday and Sunday. Predictions are that the lake would rise to 1961.1 feet by the end of Wednesday, reach 1964.07 on Thursday, and 1965.94 on Friday.

Mary Ellen Miller, program manager for community relations for the Boone Dam project, said in a press release that the high lake level projections are based on the weather forecasts.

Meteorologist Brandon Wasilewski of the National Weather Service office in Morristown said the rain in this region is a part of the large storm that is also currently impacting the Midwest, but the Michigan flooding is caused by dam breaks. He said the forecast is for the system be persistent and move slowly through the area.

Possible rain totals in our area are projected to be about 1.5 inches through Friday, but higher amounts could be seen on the eastern side of the mountains, where the headwaters that flow into Watauga Lake originate.

The localized heavy rainfall led the National Weather Service to warn that the rain could lead to some isolated flooding, especially in the mountainous areas of Johnson, Carter and Unicoi Counties. The weather service issued a flash flood watch, which remained in effect until 8 a.m. Thursday.

As the waters rise in Watauga Lake, Miller said TVA is encouraging marinas, lakeshore property owners and others with shoreline interests to keep informed of lake levels with the TVA Lake Info App, or online with TVA.com or though the National Weather Service. Miller said forecasts and data are updated almost in real time and around the clock.

Teresa Calhoun, corporate secretary for Lakeshore Marina and the Captain’s Table Restaurant, said TVA sent an email to her office on Wednesday morning with the information that lake levels would rise.

Calhoun said the lake levels were so high for the past few weeks that the restroom next to the marina had stopped working. The company was already planning to build a new restroom higher up the bank, but did not get that done before this water level rise. She said another more distant restroom facility will be used this weekend, as well as portable toilets installed closer to the marina.

Previously reported:

The Tennessee Valley Authority River Forecast Center expects Watauga Lake to rise 7 to 8 feet between Wednesday and Sunday, according to a TVA news release.

That projection is rainfall dependent and based on the current rainfall forecast. Pool levels at Watauga Lake have the potential to reach and break the record level of 1967.06 set in 2013. South Holston Lake is also expected to rise significantly, 3 to 4 feet based on latest forecasts.

“TVA encourages marinas, property owners or other shoreline interests to follow lake levels via the TVA Lake Info App, TVA.com or through the National Weather Service,” TVA said in the release.

Forecasts and data are updated almost in real time and around the clock:

— Watauga: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=mrx&gage=wtgt1

— South Holston: https://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=mrx&gage=shdt1