TVA braces for Hurricane Florence impact

TVA braces for Hurricane Florence impact

September 12th, 2018 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

The floodgates are open on the Chickamauga Dam on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is drawing down its reservoirs and sending linemen to North Carolina in preparation for Hurricane Florence.

TVA, which operates 49 flood-control dams on the Tennessee River and its tributaries, has been drawing down its reservoirs this week in anticipation of potentially heavy rainfall expected to hit the eastern part of the Valley from the hurricane by Sunday.

"It's hard to predict exactly where the storm path will go at this point, but our focus for TVA has been to move more water out of our reservoir system to open up more flood storage capacity in anticipation of potentially heavy rains by this weekend," James Everett, director of the TVA's river operations center in Knoxville, said today.

For the first time since 1994, TVA has opened the spillways at the Cherokee Dam near Knoxville and TVA is spilling at many of its other dams, including Chickamauga, Nickajack and Guntersville in the Chattanooga area, to help draw down lake levels for the coming storms. So far this year, rainfall above Chattanooga has been 8 inches above normal and this summer has been the wettest in five years so lake levels have been slightly more elevated than normal for this time of year.

TVA is operating nearly all of its hydroelectric generators at 29 of its dams around the clock.

Everett said parts of the Tennessee Valley could receive 4 to 8 inches of rain, depending upon what path the storm takes as it moves east. TVA serves seven states, including portions of eastern North Carolina and Virginia. Rainfall is expected to be far less than those peaks in Chattanooga, however.

TVA spokeswoman Malinda Hunter said the federal utility also is sending 80 of its employees, or about two thirds of its transmission construction staff, to Charlotte, N.C., to assist Duke Power for power outages expected from the coming storm.

"We've sent trucks, maintenance staff and two helicopters with pilots and support staff and they are all staging in the Charlotte area to be ready to move in and help with the storm restoration effort after the storm passes," Hunter said today.

TVA and Duke, along with other Southern utilities, share in a mutual assistance program to provide staff and equipment to one another in response to storm-related power outages.