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Recent rains have Middle Tennessee reservoirs peaking

Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Water spills through the Tims Ford Dam Reservoir into the Elk River as Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials continue to lower the lake back to its normal summer pool level. Chuck Bach, general manager of TVA River Operations, said Tims Ford Lake would likely go 2 feet above normal pool level due to an unseasonable amount of rain in early July. (MCN Photo by Robert Holman)

Water spills through the Tims Ford Dam Reservoir into the Elk River as Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials continue to lower the lake back to its normal summer pool level. Chuck Bach, general manager of TVA River Operations, said Tims Ford Lake would likely go 2 feet above normal pool level due to an unseasonable amount of rain in early July. (MCN Photo by Robert Holman)

Mother Nature finally offered a reprieve for Middle Tennessee. After nearly two weeks of wet weather saturated the area, there was time to dry out this week as the sun baked Lynchburg and surrounding counties.

The heavy rains endured over the last few weeks have pushed the Tennessee River up to flood stage, while the unseasonably wet weather has had an impact on local reservoirs as well.

Despite the short dry spell, Tennessee Valley Authority reservoirs across the state are still full — that includes Tims Ford — and TVA’s water managers are spilling as much water through the dams as they safely can.

“Right now at Tims Ford we are about a foot above where we would normally be for summer pool,” said Chuck Bach, general manager of TVA River Operations, on July 12. “We will probably go about 2 feet above (before it drops). We’ve had significant rainfall across the valley. We’ve stored as much as we could. We will be releasing for a long time … maybe longer depending on if we get more rain.”

Bach said it could take 10 days or more for Tims Ford to drop back down to its normal summer pool level. With more than 2 inches of rain recorded in some areas overnight on July 11 and more rain expected, the ground is saturated, meaning there will be more runoff.

The only place for it to go is into the reservoir and below the dam into the Elk River.

“We are getting a lot of runoff … more than normal for this time of year,” added Bach. “It’s very unusual. In Knoxville we are 19 inches above normal (rainfall measurements for the year) at the airport.”

To put that into perspective, the Tennessee River watershed has one of the highest annual rainfall totals of any watershed in the United States, averaging 51 inches a year. So far in 2013, more than 40 inches of rain has fallen in the Valley.

“You’re feeling what everybody else is feeling across the Valley … lots of rain,” said Bach. “Unfortunately that will have some agricultural impact … some impact on farmers.”

Late last week, Bach said TVA was spilling some 30,000 gallons per second through the Tims Ford Dam. By comparison, TVA is allowing 1.4 million gallons per second go through the Pickwick Dam in West Tennessee.

Unfortunately for those downstream, whether it be the Elk Rivers, the Tennessee River or the Cumberland River — which is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — all the waters are eventually heading the same direction. In Middle Tennessee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been holding back releases from the 10 dams it operates on the Cumberland River and its tributaries to prevent flooding.

It’s unusual to have so much rain in the summer, when TVA usually struggles to keep reservoirs full for recreation. TVA typically draws down reservoirs to their lowest levels in the fall and winter to make storage space for spring rains.

To read the complete version of this story, see the July 18 edition of The Moore County News.

 

—By ROBERT HOLMAN, MCN Editor (The Associated Press contributed to this story)

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