With the looming threat of heavy rainfall on the horizon and more than an inch of rain falling yesterday alone, local agencies are reminding residents to take caution when traveling.

According to Allen Lendley, the director of the Coffee County Emergency Management Agency, awareness is of the utmost importance during heavy rains and flooding.

The EMA is monitoring the weather closely as it moves in today and as it sticks around over the next few days, Lendley said, in case his department needs to take any action.

Lt. Phil Henderson of the Tullahoma Police Department is also keeping an eye out during the upcoming weather event.

According to Henderson, the public works department has already loaded up vehicles with road closure signs in case certain roads become waterlogged and dangerous for travel.

The main areas residents need to look out for, Henderson said, were North Washington Street near L & H Distributing Company; West Lincoln Street at the intersection with Blue Lake Drive; and North Jackson Street at Wilson Avenue.

If those roads end up closed due to flooding, Henderson said motorists should find alternate routes.

“If people see those, don’t move the signs and go around them,” he said, “because we may not able to come get you.”

Henderson said during times of heavy flooding in town, the majority of assistance calls the police receive come from the Wilson Avenue area, where the road is mostly likely to flood over.

“People don’t realize that the water is that deep,” Henderson said.

Wilson Avenue crosses over Rock Creek near Big Springs Avenue. Rock Creek is where all the stormwater from Wilson Avenue ends up, Henderson said.

If Rock Creek already has an increase in flow due to heavy rains, there’s nowhere for the additional stormwater to go, Henderson said, and it ends up on the roadway instead.

“It just stays right there on the street,” he said.

Lendley echoed Henderson’s caution to avoid roads with standing water. He added that was the biggest concern for flooded areas on a continual basis.

“One of the things in times of flooding some folks don’t adhere to is driving through flooded roadways,” he said. “If there is water over the roadway, it may be just a couple of inches or it may have washed part of the road away.”

Lendley reminded residents of the National Weather Service’s slogan of “Turn around; don’t drown,” in times like these.

“If there is water over the roadway or there [are] high water signs or barricades up due to flooding, folks need to seek an alternate route to their destination.”

Should motorists become stranded, however, Lendley said the EMA would be working with other response agencies “if and when the need arises for any type of rescues due to flooding.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more deaths occur due to flooding than any other hazard related to thunderstorms. The most common flood-related deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood waters.

Cars may be swept away or stall in moving water, according to the CDC.


TVA preparations

Local agencies aren’t the only ones prepared to take action during the next few days.

State officials with Tennessee Valley Authority are also taking steps to mitigate as many flood hazards as possible.

“After record rainfall in 2018, we are seeing much of the same so far in early 2019,” said James Everett, senior manager for TVA’s River Forecast Center. “With above-average rainfall totals on already-saturated ground possible next week, we are moving lots of water through the system to create as much storage as possible in our reservoirs while also limiting flows to protect downstream areas.”

Everett said multiple rounds of moisture moving up from the Gulf of Mexico could bring 5 to 10 inches of rainfall to parts of the Valley through next weekend, with heavier amounts possible locally. Rainfall intensity is expected to increase Tuesday through Thursday and continue into the weekend.


Public information is

a high priority

As it works to manage the unusually high amounts of rainfall, TVA is working to continually provide the latest information about this unfolding weather event.

“Providing accurate and timely information to the public is a high priority for us,” said Tom Barnett, general manager for River Management. “TVA prevents about $250 million in flood damage across the region each year. Though we cannot prevent all flooding during exceptional events like these, we do strive to keep the public informed about our actions to minimize the impacts so that everyone can better prepare.”

TVA has been monitoring this system closely since early last week and has been spilling or sluicing water from its tributary reservoirs to create more storage for expected rainfall. At the same time, TVA has been spilling water through all dams on the main stem of the Tennessee River to accommodate the tributary releases to come. TVA continues to manage releases from Kentucky Dam to support flood control operations on the Ohio River.

Once the heaviest rains arrive, TVA will use the storage space it has created in the tributary reservoirs to hold back water as it manages high flows along the main stem. Even so, the heavy rains expected could raise both tributary and main stem reservoirs to summer pool or above later this week.


What to expect

this week

In partnership with the National Weather Service, TVA continues to monitor and update forecasts and will adjust releases and other river management actions accordingly.

TVA river management activities — including spilling, sluicing, hydro generation and reducing flows at some locations — will be ongoing at tributary and main stem sites across the valley. Water release strategies will be updated around the clock by TVA’s River Forecast Center staff as the rainfall forecast develops.

Some expected impacts across the Valley this week include:

Tributaries may rise to summer pool or higher.

Levels on the Tennessee River main stem river pools will also rise sharply in response to heavy rain.

There may be significant flooding along the unregulated portions of rivers below dams, especially Tims Ford Dam on the Elk River and Normandy Dam on the Duck River, as well as other locations in western North Carolina and north Georgia, including Copperhill and McCaysville.

High water flows could force lock closures on all lower main stem rivers to protect public safety and transportation


Stay informed

TVA places a high priority on collaborating with its public safety partners – the National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and others – to quickly and continuously provide the latest information on weather forecasts, expected rainfall, water levels and potential impacts.

TVA will reach out to National Weather Service, farmers, marinas, local EMAs and other groups across the Valley to provide advanced warning about rising river levels. Residents in flood-prone areas should stay tuned to National Weather Service alerts for warning information.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.