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On this page you learn what types of flooding are typical in Tennessee and how do you protect yourself, your family and your home. You will also find out more about significant Tennessee floods. Finally, you'll find links to NWS offices that provide forecast and safety information for Wisconsin as well as links to our partners who play a significant role in keeping you safe.

Significant Tennessee Floods

+ The Nashville Flood, May 2010

+ East Tennessee Flood of 1867

The flood of 1867 is the most significant flood ever recorded in east Tennessee. The Upper Tennessee Valley was especially susceptible to flooding thanks to its location between the Smoky Mountains to the east and the Cumberland Plateau to the west. The valley gradually slopes from southwest Virginia to Chattanooga, TN, with nearly all precipitation runoff from across the region flowing through Chattanooga.

Meteorological data was scarce in 1867, but one attempt by the Tennessee Valley Authority to reconstruct the precipitation event resulted in the following isohyetal map.

Flood waters surrounding Rock Springs LARC river station.
Estimated total rainfall, March 1-7, 1867. Taken from “Floods and Flood Control,” Tennessee Valley Authority, Technical Report No. 26, 1961, pg. 30.

The map above shows that during the first 7 days of March 1867, upwards of 12 inches of rain fell across an area extending from Lookout Mountain in northwest Georgia, to Maggie Valley, NC. Rainfall is estimated to have easily exceeded 6 inches across the remainder of the Upper Tennessee Valley and its drainages. But the heavy rainfall was not the whole story. The rain  produced rapid snowmelt across the higher elevations, which contributed to the total storm runoff. The course of the flood through the Upper Tennessee Valley was described as follows by the Report of Chief of Engineers, 1875-1876:

“The flood of 1867 far exceeded all precedents for the past 90 years. It consisted of one great rise due to furious rain storms which covered its entire valley, particularly the mountain region. At Kingsport, on the Holston, rain fell nearly continuously from February 28 to March 7. At noon on March 7 the river attained its highest point, being 30 feet above low water and 4 feet above any other flood. In 20 hours it fell 10 feet. At Strawberry Plains [northeast of Knoxville] the freshet [flood waters] rose 52 feet above low water and 11 feet above any other flood. At Knoxville the river rose 12 feet above the high-water mark of 1847 and was over 50 feet deep. Near Harrison the Tennessee rose 15 feet above any known water mark. At Chattanooga the rise began on March 4, overflowed the banks on March 8, and attained height on March 11, being 53 feet above low water and 15.5 feet above the high water of 1847, the highest on record. The river fell with equal rapidity to the usual level. Rains were incessant for four days before the highest water….  The destruction of property and life occasioned by this flood was beyond parallel in the history of the Tennessee Valley. [Taken from “The Chattanooga Flood Control Problem,” 76th Congress, 1st Session, House Document No. 91, 1939, pg. 71].”

Learn More:

The web link below will take you to a more detailed description of the Flood of 1867 that quotes numerous newspaper articles and official reports from the era. You will also discover whether such a flood could ever happen again with all of the flood control systems now in place. You may be surprised.

+ Flood of 2011

The flood of 2011 was one of the most prolific flooding events in recent history. Two major storm systems deposited a large amount of water into the Mississippi watershed in late April 2011. Combined with the springtime snowmelt, the Mississippi River and its tributaries swelled to record levels by the beginning of May. In Tennessee, much of the flooding occurred along the Mississippi River and its tributaries from the North Tennessee state line southward to north boundary of Bolivar County, MS. Many areas between levees were flooded, damaging or destroying many homes and businesses. A fatality was reported in Tipton County, TN, where a young boy rode a bike into the floodwaters. The exact cost of the damage in Tennessee due to this event is unknown, but it was likely hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Flooding of Tunica Lakes, Tunica, MS May 11, 2011 Trailer Court Flooding South of North Watkins May 10, 2011 
Flooding of Tunica Lakes, Tunica, MS May 11, 2011  Trailer Court Flooding South of North Watkins May 10, 2011 
Memphis Riverfront @ Riverside Drive May 10, 2011 Tunica River Park, Tunica, MS
Memphis Riverfront @ Riverside Drive May 10, 2011  Tunica River Park, Tunica, MS 

Flood Hazards Information

+Flash Flooding

Flash flooding is a rapid and extreme flow of high water into a normally dry area, or a rapid water level rise in a stream or creek above a predetermined flood level, beginning within six hours of the causative event (i.e., intense rainfall, dam failure, ice jam). More information...

+River Flooding

River flooding occurs when river levels rise and overflow their banks or the edges of their main channel and inundate areas that are normally dry. More information...

+Debris Jams

A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of ice or other debris. Debris Jam: A back-up of water into surrounding areas can occur when a river or stream is blocked by a build-up of debris. More information...

+Dam Breaks/Levee Failure

A break or failure can occur with little to no warning. Most often they are caused by water overtopping the structure, excessive seepage through the surrounding ground, or a structural failure. More information...
Protect Life and Property: NWS Forecast Offices and River Forecast Centers (RFC) Covering Tennessee