Most years, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Tennessee River Forecasting Center employees spend their spring hoping for enough rain to maintain summer pool across the system. This year is different. Due to extensive rains in the area, forecasters are actually lowering pools to reach normal summer levels.
“We came out of a really wet 2018 and went into a really wet 2019,” said TVA public relations Josh Clendenen.
The two seasons each broke some longstanding rains that date back to the
The area received 67 inches in 2018, which broke the 1973 record of 65 inches and tops the average rainfall by over 10 inches, according to River Forecast Center support manger Melissa Lindquist.
This February’s monthly rainfall of 11.6 inches topped the 1939 record of 10 inches for the month.
“When you’re coming into a big weather event and the ground is fully saturated, a lot more of the rainfall ends up directly into the river. You see a lot sharper rises in the river system,” Lindquist said.
She explained the River Forecasting Center was in a good position to deal with the high waters of February. Reservoirs were drawn down to low levels in the winter to provide flood protection.
“We were at 98 percent of flood storage capacity entering February. We used every last bit of that storage to manage flows to prevent flood damage,” Lindquist said.
In some areas, the system was able to hold back over 100 percent of capacity. By carefully controlling the flow and volume in the system, a “wedge” of water was created by building up water below dams as extra storage.
“If that same volume of water were in a level pool we would be above our top of gate and a downstream dam,” she said.
The Normandy reservoir used 99 percent of its storage capacity. Tims Ford Reservoir was at 84 percent and Kentucky, the biggest reservoir, was filled to 103 percent of capacity.
“We utilizes as much of our storage to overt flood damages. We were successful to divert $1.6 million in flood damages,” Lundquist said, citing TVA estimates of potential flood crests and what would have been damaged in affected areas.
Memorial Day weekend starts the recreation season for the TVA.
“The rivers are slowly getting back to normal…down to summer pool,” Clendenen said. “It’s setting the stage for a great summer.”
Recreation Specialist Derek South added that with all the land and open water the TVA manages, there is plenty of room to get out and enjoy nature.
“Paddling is getting super popular. We are always trying to partner with local entities to provide more access for people to use,” he said.
To expand access and awareness of recreation opportunities is the TVA/ National Geographic interactive map that shows campgrounds, boat ramps and recreational land open to the public. Go to tva.gov/Environment/Recreation/TVA-Recreation-Map to view the map.
This is third year the TVA will hold the #TVAfun contest. When out on any TVA property, take your best photo of you or your group doing a recreational activity, and upload it to social media with the hashtag #TVAfun to be entered for a GoPro camera.
“We’re ready for people to start recreating,” Clendenen said.