D190103 wheeler dam

Water from the Tennessee River flows through Wheeler Dam near Town Creek on Wednesday. TVA officials said 1.6 million gallons of water per second was passing through the dam. [DAN BUSEY/DECATUR DAILY]

December’s rainfall in the Tennessee Valley has continued into the new year, but possible flooding doesn’t appear to be a major concern, according to authorities.

The Tennessee Valley Authority said the Tennessee River at Decatur remains well below flood stage, and Wheeler Dam is handling the extra water without any issues. But a few low-lying areas have experienced minor flooding in the past three days, local officials said.

Morgan County District 4 Commissioner Greg Abercrombie said Lower Dry Creek Road in northeast Morgan County was closed about 24 hours because of water standing on the road north of Alabama 36 between Valhermosa Springs and Lacey’s Spring.

“We barricaded (the road) Monday night and into Tuesday,” he said. “But the water’s gone down. We had high-water signs on eight to 10 roads because of some light water either on the roads or near the edge of the roads.

“I was expecting the flooding with the rain we’ve had to be a lot worse.”

John Wisda, owner of the Riverside Event Center on the south bank of the Tennessee River at Lacey’s Spring, said the rainfall hasn’t negatively impacted his venue.

“The water is 6 or 7 feet short of the concrete pad under the center,” he said. “I don’t think it will get any closer this time.”

Wisda’s 8,600-square-foot event center, which opened in March, was built on 12-foot-tall beams to prevent issues from the river easing out of its banks.

National Weather Service meteorologist Jessica Chace said rain will continue to hit the area in waves before clearing Friday night.

“We’ll have another round of moderate rain Thursday morning and again Thursday night,” she said Wednesday. “We’re looking at another 2 inches of rain by the end of the week. Saturday and Sunday will be beautiful with clearing conditions and above seasonal temperatures.”

She said December’s rainfall total at Huntsville International Airport was 10 inches, 4.23 inches above normal.

Morgan County Emergency Management Agency Director Eddie Hicks said he is monitoring the rainfall and said the wet forecast is worrisome.

“The ground is pretty well saturated,” he said. “It will depend how fast we get those 2 inches. It will be more of a problem if we get that amount in 12 hours versus say two days. We’re always concerned. Right now, it’s not an imminent issue.”

Limestone County EMA Director Rita White said Bill Black Road northwest of Athens in the Owens community was closed for about 12 hours Monday because a creek came out of its banks.

“It’s back open, and we’re watching our flood-prone areas,” she said.

James Everett, manager of TVA’s river forecast center, said 1.6 million gallons of water per second is passing through Wheeler Dam near Town Creek because of the recent heavy rainfall.

“The amount is abnormally high,” he said. “It’s a benefit for power generation, but the extra rainfall is causing a navigation problem on the Tennessee River for barge traffic near Chattanooga. We’ve been shifting our attention to flood control and storing water along the tributaries” up river.

He said the Decatur area is not expected to experience any navigation problems. According to the National Weather Service, the Tennessee River flood stage at Decatur is 10 feet. At 2 p.m. Wednesday, the river level was at 5.87 feet.

Everett said the 41,000 square miles of the TVA region received a record 67 inches of rain during 2018, topping the old mark of 65.1 inches set in 1973.

“It’s by far the most the TVA has ever seen,” he said. “Normal rainfall for our region is 51 inches.”

He said the high mark was spurred by 10 to 12 inches of rain in the past 30 days in the Appalachian Mountains region of TVA.

Along Lawrence County 150 in Courtland, the Big Nance Creek was 2.25 feet over flood stage level Saturday afternoon but has receded, according to the National Weather Service. At 2 p.m. Wednesday, the creek level was down to 5.69 feet, well below the 16.25-foot flood stage.

“We had some water on County Road 150 on Saturday in the Harmony community, but it was never closed,” said Courtland Council member Farrell Hutto. “The creek was out of its banks in town, too, but it flowed into nearby fields and was never a safety concern.”

Johnny Cantrell, Lawrence County EMA director, said all county roads were open as of Wednesday afternoon.

TVA spokesman Travis Brickey warns winter anglers to stay clear of the dams along the Tennessee River.

“The river is currently running really fast,” he said. “The high water and swift currents cause accidents, sometimes fatal, to happen. Accidents can happen when fishermen get too close to the dams, either above or below the dams. No fish is worth your life.”

mike.wetzel@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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