Hydrology in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and extreme southwest North Carolina

Lake, mountains, and trees image

Hydrology is the study of water on the surface and under the surface of the earth and in the hydrologic cycle. In east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and southwest North Carolina, there is often more water on the surface of the earth than can be conveniently run off into the oceans. In the 18th through early 20th centuries, this region was dangerously flood prone, and development of large cities came slowly, compared to other areas of the country. The development of hydrologic science in the early 20th century enabled dams to be built along the Tennessee River and its tributaries that were capable of partially controlling the flooding, and provided electricity to underdeveloped areas. Growth since then has been tremendous in many locations. Unfortunately, much of the growth has been in relatively low, flat locations (pretty hard to find around these parts!) that often tend to be more flood prone than other places.

 

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Morristown, Tennessee has hydrologic responsibility for much of east Tennessee, five counties of southwest Virginia, and Cherokee and Clay counties of extreme southwest North Carolina. This area is called our Hydrological Services Area (HSA). Our hydrologic operation mainly involves the forecasting of river levels and warning of floods and flash floods. Forecasters at WFO Morristown use real-time information from the Integrated Flood Observing and Warning System (IFLOWS) to assess the threat for flash floods in our area.

 

Even in the flood prone Southern Appalachians, river floods are a relatively rare event. We, in cooperation with the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center (LMRFC), issue river forecasts for several rivers in the region. These forecasts include forecasted stages (heights above a given zero level) at daily intervals, and expected flood levels and times of crest (the maximum stage). The LMRFC issues forecasts for thirteen points in our HSA. They are:

Clinch River at Cleveland, VA   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

Clinch River at Speers Ferry, VA   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

Clinch River above Tazewell, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]

Emory River at Oakdale, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

French Broad River near Newport, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

Little Pigeon River at Sevierville, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]

Nolichucky River at Embreeville, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

North Fork of the Holston River near Gate City, VA   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

Pigeon River at Newport, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]

Powell River near Jonesville, VA   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]

Powell River near Arthur, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

Sequatchie River near Whitwell, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

South Chickamauga Creek near Chickamauga, TN   [Provisional Flow Data]   [Basin Info]   [Pictures]

Real-Time Streamflow Data for Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina


Most of the rivers and streams in east Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and southwest North Carolina are flash flood prone, that is, they respond very quickly and violently to heavy rain. Below are some recent flash floods in the area:

Rain drop image Little Webb Creek, Sevier County, Tennessee: September 22, 1989

Buffalo Creek, Grainger County, Tennessee: July 1, 1997

Doe River, Carter County, Tennessee: January 7-8, 1998

Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee: July 25-29, 2001

Horse Creek, Greene County, Tennessee: August 3-4, 2001

East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia: February 14-23, 2003

Southeast Tennessee: May 5-11, 2003

Central East Tennessee: September 23, 2006

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