TVA spilling water from dams due to heavy rainfall
Chattanooga is over 2.5 inches above normal for rainfall to date for the month of November, while some surrounding areas in Georgia and North Carolina are 4 inches above normal to date for the month.
TVA uses its system of dams to manage this excess rainfall.
"All that rain has to come down through our main stem dams at TVA, and one of TVA's primary focuses is flood control. So, that's why you are not seeing flooding in the area. TVA is managing the water as it comes down the main stem," Malinda Hunter, a TVA spokesperson, said
All of TVA's main stem dams are spilling now to keep water flowing downstream and prevent flooding.
"We're spilling about twice as much as what we might normally spill in a flood condition at Chickamauga. So, if you go to Chickamauga right now, you'll see 673,000 gallons per second spilling through the dam," Hunter explained.
They are holding back some feeder streams with a focus on overall flood control and management.
"We want to protect people and protect the shoreline. Keep everyone safe while all this water comes through, so we have to spill some. We can't hold it all back for generation. We're generating as much as we can, and then we're spilling the rest."
One benefit of all this rain is the generation of hydroelectricity. TVA is able to maximize hydro production in addition to spilling the excess water for flood management.
It is not safe to swim in the fast current, and even on a boat, please be safe and mindful due to the quick flow rate especially near the dams.
“There's flashing lights. There's sirens. There's signage. Stay away from the dams even if that's where the good fish are. Stay away from the dams. It's just not a safe place to be right now while we are spilling so much water," Hunter added.
Additionally, the Coast Guard has restricted commercial barge traffic to daylight hours only due to the increased flows.
TVA prepares for this flooding potential every year by lowering reservoir levels in fall and winter. With colder temperatures and less living plant life absorbing the water, the wintertime lower lake levels are necessary to provide the capacity to maintain the excess water within the river system.