By David Walter
Abnormal amounts of rain continue to produce record-breaking water levels in Watauga Lake. Since the start of this year, unusually heavy rainfall has presented extraordinary conditions. The excessive rain translates to the lake reaching its highest levels ever and has led to minor flooding above and below the dams. The previous record for Watauga Lake was in 1987 at 1963.3. In May, it was three feet over the previous record. As of last Saturday, the lakes level was 1965.5 above the dam.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has been carefully tracking the water levels and meticulously releasing the water necessary to achieve equilibrium. The TVA is currently releasing close to an average of 3,190 cubic feet of water per second. In May, it was reported by TVA spokesperson Travis Brickley that the TVA was discharging close to 1.4 million gallons per minute.
The current level of 1965.5 is roughly six feet over the ideal flood guideline for the TVA. That guide line is traditionally set to just under 1960 feet and typically does not recede until levels decline to roughly 1950 – 1960 between mid-September and mid-April.
The continued primary concern of the TVA is the area below the dams of Watauga Lake. This includes Hampton and Elizabethton. According to their website, the TVA typically waits until the water in the lower tributaries recedes and then releases the water in anticipation of future flooding of the reservoirs. This has been a tricky balance because of the sheer volume of rain across the region and it has been even further complicated specifically by the amount of rain received in the last few months. The TVA is careful to take into consideration the homes near the affected tributaries. They also consider the local recreation on the lake and rivers, campgrounds, farms, and other locations that could be easily flooded. Because of their due diligence, there have been no major occurrences of flooding or damage outside the banks of tributaries.
While the conditions are not typical, authorities have given no cause for alarm. According to the TVA, there is no concern for the dams themselves. The structural integrity of the two dams on Watauga Lake has been recently verified.
Local recreation and tourism entities are encouraging those interested in recreation on the lake to continue with their plans and express no concern over the recent flooding. For them, its business as usual and visitors have not let conditions stop them from enjoying Watauga Lake.
To get the latest updates on the lake, the TVA recommends going to their website at www.tva.gov. Real-time information regarding current and hour-by-hour water levels can also be obtained through the TVA Mobile App.
By David Walter