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Heavy rainfall opens gates; Pontoon boat goes adrift, caught in spillway

Dangerous conditions are preventing the recovery of a pontoon boat in a spillway at Pickwick Landing Dam.

Photo by Hardin County Fire Department

PICKWICK, Tenn. — Dangerous conditions are preventing the recovery of a pontoon boat trapped in a partially open spillway at the Pickwick Landing Dam.

An unoccupied boat caused concerns for area residents and the Hardin County Fire Department was called to check on it.

Social media comments indicated there was concern for the well being of the owner. Firefighter officials said the boat's owner has been located and accounted for, but conditions are too dangerous to recover the boat at this time.

According to the Tennessee Valley Authority newsroom, yearly rainfall totals for the TVA region continue to climb near record levels, and the trend for above average rainfall totals continues right up to the year's end.

"For the week before Christmas, rainfall averaged 2 inches in the eastern Valley and 1.4 inches in the western Valley," said James Everett, senior manager for TVA's River Forecast Center. "We began spilling and sluicing at several locations the day after Christmas to increase flows and increase flood storage capacity, and that will likely continue into the New Year."

Everett said TVA is spilling or sluicing this week through gates at South Holston, Wilbur, Cherokee, Douglas, Norris, Fontana, Apalachia, Ocoee 3, Great Falls, Fort Loudoun, Watts Bar, Chickamauga (pictured above), Nickajack, Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, Pickwick and Kentucky reservoirs. Most dams along the main stem Tennessee River have been in spill operations since mid-November and will likely be spilling well into 2019.

Rainfall FTYD is more than 140 percent of normal and runoff more than 200 percent of normal, Everett said, boosted by hurricanes Florence and Michael and Winter Storm Diego. Regional rainfall totals for the year over the 41,000 square-mile Tennessee River Valley have exceeded 62 inches, placing 2018 in the Top 10 all time for yearly rainfall in the TVA region, according to TVA.

Expected rains the last week of 2018 could possibly break the previous annual rainfall record of 65.1 inches set in 1973. The Tennessee Valley region normally averages 51 inches of rain a year.

TVA manages the 652-mile Tennessee River and its many tributaries using a series of 49 dams to meet vital public needs in six key areas: navigation, flood damage reduction, power production, water quality, water supply, and recreation.