KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – Rain in the forecast means rain in the rivers, streams and lakes that call Appalachia home. For the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), that means keeping a close eye on where all that water ends up.
“We’ll be looking at the whole region,” said James Everett, manager of the TVA’s River Forecast Center. “Using gauge data, using RADAR data and then running models to make decisions about what we do with that water, how much we release and how much we can store.”
Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia play a pivotal role for other regions when it comes to water flow, since steep mountains tend to collect water and channel it toward Knoxville and Chattanooga. To prevent flooding and erosion downstream, the TVA’s 49 dams are used to collect and store water.
“[We’re] using these large storage dams like South Holston and Watauga to store the water while it’s raining, store it in those lakes and then once this rainfall finally moves through,” Everett said. “That water we’ve accumulated and stored in the reservoir we’ll turn right back around and release it through generators.”
Everett said the week’s soggy weather isn’t exactly unusual, but TVA staff monitor water levels 24/7 to make sure nothing takes them by surprise. Once the rain has stopped, extra water will be released through hydroelectric generators to offset power costs and stabilize streams.