Heavy rains raise creeks at or above flood level

Heavy rains raise creeks at or above flood level

April 24th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Breaking News

Three days of rainfall across much of the Tennessee Valley pushed waters in the West Chickamauga Creek near Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., above flood level today and is expected to raise lake levels on Chickamauga and Nickajack Lake up as much as 2 feet above normal summertime lake levels this week, according to forecasts by the National Weather Service and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Rains pushed up the level of the West Chickamauga Creek to 11.89 feet, or nearly a foot above flood stage, before clearing weather started lowering the creek this afternoon. The South Chickamauga Creek in Chattanooga got within a foot of its 30-foot flood level today, but should begin falling this evening, National Weather Service Meteorologist Derek Eisentrout said.

The weather service, which counted 3.39 inches of rain at Lovell Field in Chattanooga Sunday through Tuesday, predicts more scattered rain for the rest of today and Wednesday and clearing and sunnier skies by this weekend.

TVA recorded 6 inches of rain at its Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility in the past three days — one of the high spots of precipitation so far this week.

"We've had a lot of rain since Sunday, especially in northern Alabama and southern Tennessee (downstream of Chattanooga) so we're trying to do what we can to control the river flow to minimize flooding and hold back as much water as we can until conditions improve in the next few days," said James Everett, manager of operations support for TVA's River Forecasting Center in Knoxville. "It's been sporadic, but we tended to get the heaviest rains along the Tennessee-Alabama border on the lower main stem of the Tennessee River in the spot where we don't have the tributary dams to store as much water like we do in East Tennessee."

As a result, Everett said low-lying areas near Florence, Ala., Savannah, Tenn., and. Perryville, Tenn., are at or near flood stage because of the rains.

TVA is holding back water in its upstream tributaries to limit the flooding in Alabama and West Tennessee, Everett said. As a result, some of the main reservoirs at Fontana, Norris, Douglas and Cherokee are expected to reach closer to their summertime pool levels in May, although such lakes don't reach their actual summertime levels, in most instances, until June 1.

TVA is spilling water through its mainstream dams downstream of Chattanooga, including at the Nickajack, Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, Pickwick and Kentucky dams.

April rainfall in the TVA region is about 1.5 inches above normal, with most of that coming in the past week, Everett said.

Contact staff writer Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.