The Tennessee Valley Authority is keeping an eye on the rainfall this week and taking the proper precautions to prevent flooding in the area.
The River Forecast Center at TVA works around the clock to ensure water levels are just right and to prepare for potential large rain events like the one Tennessee could see this week.
James Everett manages the RFC and said everything TVA does is for a reason, and potential flooding is something they are currently watching.
“As we look forward to next week we’re seeing the potential for a lot of rainfall, and so that’s going to be high on our priority list--preparing the system and managing flows for flood protection," Everett explained.
As lake levels rise, the TVA said it typically sees a lot more debris out on the water and warned people to be aware of that, as well as higher than normal flows from dams.
"Very hazardous waters around our dams as we are moving water through the generating units and the powerhouse as well as using the spill gates. causes excess water so very turbulent water and hazardous conditions near our dams. So we urge people to heed those warnings and use extreme caution out there.
“We’ve been really busy here in the river forecast center. We are here 24/7, we have seen tremendous amounts of rainfall this calendar year and last year. We broke a rainfall record in 2018," Everett said. "The most the valley has ever seen and that pattern continued into January and February. So we are here 24/7 managing those rain events and will pick up in activity as the rain comes in.”
Everett noted 2018 saw above average rainfall and 2019 has started out on a wet note as well, which has made it more difficult to manage water levels, but it still has to be done.
“It’s been a really wet January and February and we closed out with a really wet fall last year so it’s been very difficult to do that, but that’s why we stay so aggressive with our releases from tributary dams," Everett said.
TVA releases water from tributary dams like Norris, Cherokee and Douglas to make room for more rainfall. The lakes connected to the tributary dams are at winter pooling currently so the runoff and precipitation can be stored effectively.
With the ground being moist already from on and off rain showers over the weekend, TVA was anticipating more runoff than usual.
“Anytime we get these rainfall amounts like we’re going to see in the coming week, we are going to expect much higher runoff as that rainfall hits the ground," Everett explained. "Ditches are very full, creeks are already full, ground is already very wet, so if we get heavier rainfall we’ll expect to see much higher runoff.”
Everett ensured the agency will adjust to the ebbs and flows of the changing weather system.
“It takes a team to manage this system, we are watching weather conditions here from the rivers forecast center 24/7 and working closely with people at the dams who are working cranes, spilling gates, changing flows at the project. Almost 24/7 communication," Everett said.