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Extreme Rainfall Amounts Forecast; Keep An Eye On Lake Levels

Extreme Rainfall Amounts Forecast; Keep An Eye On Lake Levels

File Photo: Kentucky Dam spilling 300,000 cfs back around New Year's 2016.

Updated 9:00 a.m. May 1, 2017

This information should now be considered archived. For the latest information regarding lake levels and predicted stages, see our lake conditions page.

The weather forecast for the nation’s heartland, including the Kentucky Lake area, doesn’t look good. While everyone knows the weather is finicky and that sometimes forecasters and computer models don’t get it right, this particular weather system looks like the real deal.

As of Wednesday evening, the latest 7-day rainfall forecast model from the Weather Prediction Center (a division of NOAA) is showing the potential for widespread four to seven inch totals over the next seven days.

Upstream of the Tennessee River, the rainfall amounts diminish to around 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain in the Chattanooga area.

Flooding on the Mississippi River is possible under this scenario. Some flooding could occur in the Tennessee and Cumberland river valleys as well. With Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley designed to store water in case of downstream flooding on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, it’s possible the lakes could rise past the 360’ mark in the coming days.

At around 362’, things get interesting as some sidewalks, parking lots and a handful of ramps become hard to access. As the lakes creep toward 366-368’ range, finding a place to launch your boat becomes difficult, but if you’re able to get in the water, fishing for bass in the trees becomes the norm!

It’s not unusual for the lakes to get high in the spring. The last time the lakes were high was January 2016 when they were in the 367’ range. The record high for Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley is 372.5’ set in May 2011. At 375’ the lakes begin to spill over the top of the dam gates.

So keep an eye on these rainfall forecast maps and also our real-time lake conditions. The rainfall forecast maps are updated a few times a day and the lake stages are updated each hour.

The predicted lake levels are computer models generated by TVA and distributed through the National Weather Service. They reportedly do not take into account the rainfall forecasts, so it’s important to check the predicted lake levels a day or so after a heavy rain event.

With both lakes already at summer pool and with tons of water being pushed through the lakes, and if the predicted rainfall amounts pan out over the next week, we’ll likely see the lakes rise. Exactly how high, well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Eagle's Nest
Photo by Melodie Cunningham

This bald eagle keeps an eye out for it's mate from their nest high in a tree top in Land Between the Lakes. The average eagle's nest is five feet wide!