Following a record-setting weekend of rain across East Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority decided to open the spillway gates Tuesday afternoon at Norris Dam.
A crowd of spectators gathered nearby to watch the rare occurrence get underway. It's the first time TVA spilled the dam since April 2013.
Due to the large crowds of people coming to watch the spill, TVA closed the lower portion of the dam to the public once it got dark Tuesday night because of safety concerns. The overlook above the dam was still open for viewing, and the lower level will reopen Wednesday morning.
On Monday, TVA spilled water from the Ft. Loudoun Dam but wanted to wait until Tuesday to do the same at Norris so that water levels could drop downstream.
Above Norris Dam those levels were about six feet above summer pool when officials made the decision to spill.
TVA spokesperson Jim Hopson said about 30,000 gallons a second were rushing from the dam when all three gates opened and they planned to increase that flow throughout the evening to 70,000 gallons a second.
Even with so much water coming out Norris will keep increasing in height until probably Wednesday.
"We expect it to crest at about seven feet above summer pool, but then the inflow from all the rain that we've had will start slowing and we'll actually be able to catch up and start gradually lowering the level down," Hopson explained.
TVA plans to keep the spillgates open over the next two or three days to bring the levels just a little under summer pool. That way there's a buffer in case of more rain this week.