While anyone living near the Tennessee River’s system of reservoirs during winter are not always happy when Tennessee Valley Authority annually draws down water in its system of reservoirs to …
While anyone living near the Tennessee River’s system of reservoirs during winter are not always happy when Tennessee Valley Authority annually draws down water in its system of reservoirs to prepare for rain events, the practice almost certainly saves billions of dollars in property losses that would result from flooding.
James Everett, weather forecast center manager for TVA, said 2018 was a record breaking year for rain in the Tennessee Valley.
“We had 67 inches of rain in 2018,” Everett said. “That was 15 inches above normal, breaking the 1973 record by two inches. It was relentless rain.”
In February, another rainfall record was broken, with 11.6 inches of rain received, making the month the wettest ever recorded in the Tennessee Valley. In all, 22 out of 28 days of the month received measurable rainfall.
Typically, during the rainy winter months, TVA will draw down water levels to create storage space in its reservoirs. Thankfully, it was prepared for the onslaught of precipitation that fell over the region.
“The rain in February never let up, but we were ready.”
Fortunately, TVA has an integrated system of dams and reservoirs that can control flooding, greatly reducing catastrophic structural losses to homes, schools, churches and businesses.
“It saved about $7.9 billion in losses,” Everett said. “Flood control is a lot of what TVA is about.”
In the Chattanooga area, TVA estimates its flood control measures saved the area from receiving some $1.4 billion in damages.
“We stored 3.6 trillion gallons of water,” Everett said. "That's enough to supply New York City with drinking water for 10 years.”
When it's raining, Everett said TVA stores water in its tributaries and then releases the water. He said its deep water tributary reservoirs, located in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina and North Georgia were able to store the excess floodwaters. When the rains ceased, the system then allowed the water to make its way though its series of dams and reservoirs.
“Once it stops raining, we let the water through,” Everett said. “That’s what we did in February.”
Heather Sellers, TVA’s recreation, said more water in the system means more boating and other recreation activities.
“The more water, the more fun,” Sellers said.
But heavy rains this year may have caused vegetation such as trees or docks present in the high waters to be swept away. As a result, Sellers and Everett caution those to be alert while on the water.
“They should be mindful of any debris in the water,” Everett said.
Sellers said TVA’s campgrounds, trails and recreational waters are ideal for those who want to enjoy the outdoors.
"We have so many recreational wonderful areas in the valley, that I highly recommend people get out and explore,” Sellers said. “We are the outdoor Mecca of the South.”
For more information about recreational activities in the Tennessee Valley Authority area, visit tennesseerivervalleygeotourism.org.
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