Carter County

Watauga Lake breaks record levels in matter of weeks

Watauga Lake breaks record levels

CARTER COUNTY, Tenn. - A dry day has been rare here in the Tri-Cities this year. In fact, we're at 87 percent of our total rainfall for the year.

This wet weather has created problems and rising concerns for people near Watauga Lake.

Back in May, Watauga Lake broke a 60-year record with lake levels hitting three feet above the highest record. But in a matter of a few weeks, that record has been broken again.

Steve Wright doesn't really have a backyard right now; it's flooded by lake water. He's parked his camper at Bayview Family Campground and says he's getting more concerned as water inches closer. "At least I've got about a foot before it gets up to the tires, maybe," he said.

Wright is one of the lucky campers. For some, the lake has made it impossible to get home.

TVA officials say Watauga Reservoir is currently at 1,967 feet, one foot above the previous record set in May. "This time it's been more gradual so no one is panicking, we're just trying to ride it out," added Wright.

Flooding has gotten so bad that it's forced Shook Branch Picnic Ground to close.

A few miles down the road at Fish Springs Marina, the rising levels mean missing boat ramps and now employees are shuttling people to their boat slips with a ferry. "It's a little more muddy because of the rain so we don't have good gravel parking lots right now. Obviously the restrooms are closed and we're having to use porta-potties," said marina owner Thomas White.

We discovered their electrical boxes are a big concern; if the lake rises another six to eight inches the marina will have to turn off electricity.

A few campsites are facing water damage for a second time in a matter of a few months. "We've contacted everyone that had damage or potential damage," added White.

Tourists are surprised by the flooded campsites. "It's devastating to the people who live here, I'm sure," said Florida resident Bruce Branch.

To solve the problem TVA officials say they're using both generating turbines and a system called sluicing to lower the lake. They're moving about 25,000 gallons of water per second.

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