TVA addresses Hurricane Florence's potential to flood Hardin County


Hurricane Florence has hit the east coast of the U.S. after a week of the entire nation watching its progress.

The effects of such a major storm can cause significant issues hundreds of miles away, even when the skies are clear and bright.

As Florence moves inland from the Carolina coast, it is expected to drop increasing amounts of rain on the mountains in eastern Tennessee, and as a consequence into the Tennessee Valley River system. Much of that water – initially forecast to be 8 to 10 inches over several days in the eastern mountain region of Tennessee – will find its way into the Tennessee River.

What falls in Knoxville flows right past Savannah.

The issue is, at this time of year the Tennessee Valley averages about 3.5 inches of total rainfall per month, and an influx of 8 to 10 inches over only three or four days can cause massive flooding issues as the Tennessee Valley Authority tries to move that much higher volume of water than normal downstream.

Friday, James Everett, senior manager of TVA’s River Forecasting Center which is tasked with managing river water levels and reducing flood risks all across the system, told The Courier he doesn’t expect a serious issue in Hardin County.

“We normally start lowering pool levels right after Labor Day anyway, but over this past week, as we’ve been tracking the progress of Florence, we started aggressively moving water downstream in anticipation of an expected higher-than-normal rainfall,” Everett said.

He added that weather forecasts regarding the storm have changed a lot over the past several days, and only 5-7 inches of rainfall is currently anticipated for east Tennessee.

Everett expects that rain event to last from Sunday through Tuesday, with possibly an inch or two farther west in Tennessee toward Chattanooga, but the skies west from Chattanooga to Hardin County are expected to remain virtually clear.

With the combination of normal pool lowering, and a more aggressive lowering in anticipation of the rain from Florence, Everett said he doesn’t expect to see any big flooding issues in Hardin due to this event.

For the near future, Hardin County should see a little bit lower than normal pool level for this time of year at the headwater of Pickwick Dam, and a little bit higher than normal level at Savannah.

“Of course, it’s still warm weather and recreation is still important right now, but we’ve lowered pools upstream to make storage in anticipation of the oncoming rain. At Pickwick, for instance, we’ve gone about a foot or so below our normal operating guide for this time of year,” Everett explained.

Friday afternoon, Pickwick Dam was releasing what is considered a moderate amount of water spillage – about 73,000 cubic feet of water per second, or 546,000 gallons per second.

Tennessee Valley Farmers President and local farmer Alex Forsbach commented on TVA’s management of the river during this event.

“TVF commends TVA for the proactive release of water to create storage for the large rain event predicted in east Tennessee. Farmers have had a tough time establishing their crops this year. Harvest has just started and it would be a very tough situation to deal with a flood after working all season and investing the full budget to establish and maintain a crop,” Forsback said.