TVA Dams Avert $1.6 Billion in Flood Damages

MARCH 1, 2019—The numbers are in. TVA’s River Forecast Center estimates about $1.6 billion in flood damages were averted while the Tennessee River swelled due to the wettest February in recorded history. TVA’s 49 dams stored at least 3.5 trillion gallons of water, reducing the downstream impacts to the hardest hit areas in west Tennessee and parts of northern Alabama—areas that saw as much as 13.5 inches of rainfall over a two-week period.

“Imagine two 1-gallon water jugs sitting beside one another,” said James Everett, TVA River Forecast Center senior manager. “3.5 trillion would be enough to stretch to the moon and back over 1,300 times. We held back as much as we could to reduce flooding.”

WATCH: Real-life stories of from the heart of the flooding in northern Alabama.

At Norris Dam alone — located in Anderson County, Tenn. — Everett and his team harnessed 305 billion gallons of water, raising the reservoir level by 26 feet over the course of just three weeks.

“Before the dams were built, people living in this region were crippled by these types of rain events,” Everett said. “Every year, we save the region about $300 million in estimated flood damages and without TVA’s dams, we would have seen several cities under water. For example, the river elevation at Chattanooga would have been 19 feet higher than flood stage, and the flood damage prevented there comprises the majority of the $1.6 billion total.”

At their peak, levels at Florence, Ala., and Savannah, Tenn., reached their second highest flood stages in TVA recorded history, Everett said. Also during this event, eight of the nine mainstem Tennessee River dams released more than a million gallons per second, led by Pickwick which peaked at nearly 4 million gallons per second. 

According to Everett, this level of protection is made possible by TVA employees who work around the clock to ensure the safety and well-being of the nearly 10 million people living in the Tennessee Valley. With these latest flood prevention actions, TVA has averted more than $8.6 billion in flood damage since it completed its first dam, Norris Dam, in 1936.

The latest information from TVA can be found on TVA’s Facebook and Twitter feeds and on our website at Specific water level data from TVA’s reservoirs can be found on TVA’s Lake Level app (available for iPhone and Android) or on TVA’s Lake Levels page.