With rain still
falling, TVA opens spill gates, schools plan closures
LENOIR CITY — TVA engineers opened the spill gates at Fort Loudoun
Dam today to relieve pressure generated by the week's record rainfall.
Water has flowed since 2 p.m. at a rate of about 344,000 gallons per
second, said Tom Barnett, manager of TVA's river forecast center.
Officials expect to keep that flow up through next week if the forecast
for continued rain holds true.
"That's not unusual at all for this time of year," said Chuck Bach,
TVA's general manager of river scheduling. "In the wintertime, we pull
the water down to the lowest level. That gives us space to move water
through the system."
Today's torrents closed schools and washed out roads, with more rain
predicted to be on the way for tonight and Wednesday.
According to the area Red Cross, the group's disaster action team in
Blount County will keep a shelter at Tuckaleechee United Methodist
Church, 7322 Tuckaleechee Road near Townsend, open tonight for those who
need to evacuate because of flooding. More shelters will be opened if
needed, according to spokesman Stan Gibert. Blount County and Jefferson
County schools will be closed Wednesday. Forecasts call for another 3-5
inches of rain across the Tennessee Valley.
Earlier today, heavy rainfall in Blount County created flooding that
may match the devastation of 1994, an official said.
That deluge damaged bridges and submerged roads, according to Blount
County Highway Superintendent Bill Dunlap.
Blount County has received up to 5 inches of rain in some areas,
including 4.5 inches in Townsend where Little River is spilling over its
Relentless rainfall across East Tennessee overnight swelled rivers,
closed and delayed schools and roadways were submerged under ponds of
Residents along Little River were advised overnight to voluntarily
"We've had a few people float in and out," Terressa Holland with the
Red Cross said this morning of visits to the church shelter.
She estimated the church could accommodate up to 50-60 evacuees.
Blount County officials advise against motorists driving around
barricades on flooded roads.
Someone did just that on Monday night on River Ford Road behind
Heritage High School, Dunlap said.
"They moved some barricades and the Blount County Fire Department had
to do a swift water rescue," he said. "Please don't go around the
Dunlap said flooding has been reported on Carnes Road in Townsend, on
River Ford Road and on John Helton Road.
"John Helton Road, Short Creek comes up real quick and John Helton
Road is cut off," he said.
Dunlap said flooding was also seen on Blockhouse View Road near the
Chilhowee Community Center where water got over a bridge there and on
Porter Bridge in the Lanier Community off of US 129.
Dunlap said he was glad Blount County Schools Director Rob Britt
canceled classes for the day.
"About eight years ago we had a school bus stranded around Porter
Bridge," he said.
"You've got to err on the side of caution when the water comes up,"
he said. "You've got to take caution because you've got a lot of streams
to cross getting kids to and from school."
The Pigeon River in Newport is nearing the "major flooding" stage,
according to the National Weather Service. Cocke County authorities said
they're holding their breath so far with the river at a height of about
11.3 feet this afternoon.
"We've had to barricade a few roads, but right now we're just
watching and waiting," said Patrick Sheldon, Cocke County Emergency
Management Agency director. "If it gets close to 14 feet, that's when
evacuations will take place."
Roane County's Emory River was in good shape this morning and was 9
feet below flood stage, said Howie Rose, the county's director of
In Anderson County, a Sheriff's Department dispatcher said the only
flood-related call that was received this morning came from the county's
Highway Department to report that Irwin Mill Road was closed at the
low-water bridge over Hinds Creek.
School systems closed due to the heavy rainfall today included
Blount, Greene, McMinn, Monroe and Sevier counties. Sweetwater city
schools also were closed.
Systems that delayed classes two hours include Cumberland, Hawkins
and Union counties.