published Tuesday, April 30th, 2013

Chattanooga rainfall is 9 inches above normal for year

Floodwaters crest Davidson Road in East Brainerd closing it to traffic Monday morning.
Floodwaters crest Davidson Road in East Brainerd closing it to traffic Monday morning.
Photo by Dan Henry.
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CHATTANOOGA RAINFALL 2013*

Month // Actual rainfall // Departure from normal // Normal

January // 9.09 // 5.35 // 3.74

February // 4.71 // -0.27 // - 4.98

March // 3.94 // -0.9 // 4.84

April // 9.74 // /4.83 // 4.91

Total: 27.48 // 9.01 // 18.47

*As of Monday morning

Source: National Weather Service, Morristown

  • photo
    A crow drinks from flood waters cresting Davidson Road in East Brainerd closing it to traffic Monday morning.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
    enlarge photo

The weekend rains dumped nearly 5 and 6 inches of rain on Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia, and more is expected late this week.

Chattanooga's rainfall in 2013 to date is 27.48 inches -- 9 inches above normal.

And in parts of North Georgia -- Chatsworth, for instance -- that total is more than 10 inches above normal, according to National Weather Service officials.

Tennessee Valley Authority river operations managers are spilling water at all nine main river dams to control flooding, and they have closed navigation at the Chickamauga Lock and in the Tennessee River Gorge below Chattanooga.

But TVA officials say they do not expect river flooding here, and they hope to reopen navigation Wednesday, though they may need to close it again later in the week with another possible inch of rain forecast.

Chattanooga, in April alone, received 9.74 inches of rain at Lovell Field, according to Shawn O'Neill, a National Weather Service meteorologist in the Morristown, Tenn., office.

"We're on the southeast edge of that area in the nation's midsection that's been getting so much rain and now is anticipating flooding," he said.

The same area is projected to receive more than normal rainfall looking into the next four months -- into August, he added.

The rain event this past weekend dropped even more water on North Georgia, according to National Weather Service forecaster Alex Gibbs in Peachtree City, Ga.

Where Chattanooga was soaked with 3.36 inches of rain since Saturday, Gibbs said parts of North Georgia, such as Chatsworth and Rome, took 4-6 inches.

"Our drought is virtually gone," Gibbs said.

At least this week, that fact is not much consolation to farmers locally.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tennessee Crop Weather newsletter Monday noted that less than half of the state's corn crop has been planted.

"Wet weather continued to delay corn planting with the current plantings falling about a week behind the five-year average," according to the newsletter.

The upside of so much rain is cheap electricity generated with the force of the water at TVA's hydropower plants.

"If we're spilling [water at the dams], we're generating," said TVA spokesman Travis Brickey. "And we're generating at all of our dams. We generate first, and if we still need to move more water, we spill, too."

He said even Norris Dam, TVA's first-built dam, in upper East Tennessee on the Clinch River, is spilling water. The 265-foot-high dam has needed to spill only four times in 10 years, Brickey said.

  • photo
    TVA's Norris Dam is on the Clinch River in upper East Tennessee, where TVA has had to release water only four times in 10 years — including on Monday.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"It's so high it's like a waterfall. People love to see it spill. They come out and picnic," he said.

Tom Barnett, TVA's manager of the river forecast center, said East Tennessee's 20,000-square-mile portion of the Tennessee River drainage system above Chattanooga saw April rainfall that was 151 percent of normal.

"It's kept us really busy this year. We came out of the wettest January we'd seen in 60 or 70 years. ... Then this weekend's high points were over 5 inches on Chickamauga and Watts Bar, and over 6 inches on Kentucky, and more than 4.5 inches in the mountains of North Carolina."

Paul Barys, chief meteorologist with WRCB-TV Channel 3, said at least the heavy rains were not a surprise and did not include severe weather.

But now, "the mosquito population is exploding, and I have to cut my grass twice a week," he said.

Although recent research indicates the Tennessee Valley area may receive as much as 17 inches of additional rain a year to top off normal rainfalls of 52.48 inches in coming decades, TVA river forecasters say they, too, deal in "the now."

"We're moving a lot of water, but we're not nearing flood stage here now," he said.

The last time floods exceeded Chattanooga's river flood stage was 2003.

"We prevented several [floods] since then," Barnett said.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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