After the wettest year in Tennessee history being recorded in 2020, March 2021 has brought more rainfall to the area, causing flooding in many of the county’s low-lying areas, many of which are still saturated as of press time, with more rain on the way.
According to Tennessee Valley Authority, the Tennessee River Basin was flooded with approximately 70.36 inches of rain, in 2020, a rate that officials said was 139 percent above normal. The total rainfall recorded was almost a full four inches more than the 66.47 inches of rain that fell in 2019, and a little more than three inches more than the 67.01 inches that fell in 2018.
“It introduces a lot of challenges,” James Everett, manager of the TVA River Forecast Center, said in a released statement. “People at the dams working around the clock, managing those releases, taking care of generators, opening spillway gates and just managing the extra rainfall and runoff that occurs when we get this above-normal rainfall pattern.”
The high rainfall amounts have continued, with the last full weekend in March bringing in some high levels of water to the Upper Cumberland.
From March 25 through March 28, the Upper Cumberland area recorded 7.36 inches of rain. The high rate at which the rain levels rose, added to the already 3.04 inches of rain recorded for the month, caused flooding of roadways and properties.
“We had multiple roads flooded throughout the county, but I was never contacted about any homes being flooded,” White County’s EMA director, Stanley Neal, said.
Neal also said, that to his knowledge, there were no emergency calls from stranded motorists or homeowners.
“I believe that the only emergency services call that went out during that time was one in which our Rescue Squad dispatched to assist DeKalb County,” he said.
Suzi Haston, E-911 director, verified Neal’s claim and said the only reports were of a few roads being blocked, but there were no emergency calls for residents or motorists in distress.
Along with the usual flooding and closure of Highway 84, which runs along Calfkiller River, and an intersection at Hickory Valley Road and Lost Creek Road, there were other roads that had portions covered with water, and motorists were reminded to turn around when they encountered these areas.
Many local and state parks closed areas and trails that were near riverbanks or dams. Even Sparta’s South Carter Street Park walking trail had a portion flooded as the usually calm, river changed to swift-moving waters and flooded portions of the trail and playground area.
While the damage was kept at a minimum and did threaten lives and homes like the floods in the spring of 2021, which resulted in rescue units being sent to multiple homes and roadways to use their swift-water equipment to remove residents and motorists from dangerous conditions, the threat of floods remains real with more rain in the future for an already overly saturated area.
“It could get bad again, so we need to be weather aware,” Neal warned.
In a final statement, Neal said weather officials recommend having a weather radio; knowing where the safe spot in a residence is in the case of high winds or tornadoes that are prevalent during the early spring months in the Upper Cumberland area; and remembering to not be on the roadways during storms and to never try to cross a flooded area as the depth and condition of the road underneath will both be unpredictable.