MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. – The Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Alabama are teaming up to fill in the blanks of flood history in the Tennessee Valley. Lisa Davis is an associate professor of geography at the University of Alabama who says they’re digging into the earth to find the history of past floods.
“We’re looking for evidence of past floods, clues that could tell us whether or not the river has had very very large floods,” said Davis.
She says within just one day of digging, they’ve already been able to update some of TVA’s flood records.
“I think we’ve been able to reveal some information about historical floods like the flood of 1867,” explained Davis.
She says each layer within the earth is a chapter of the area’s history.
As you dig lower into the dirt, you’ll notice different colors and textures in the soil that represent the floods.
A hydraulic engineer at TVA, Miles Yaw, says by allowing the research team to this, it helps them piece together the past, and prepare for the future.
“It helps us to have better real-time for operational strategies and the river forecast center so that when we get the rainiest February on record like we did this year we can safely operate the river to advert $1.6 billion of flood damage,” said Yaw.
He says it also helps TVA prioritize its dam’s safety investments.
By inviting the University of Alabama, Ray Lombardi, a Ph.D. student from UA says this gives TVA the chance to keep history from repeating itself, and it helps geographers better understand flooding patterns.
“We want to get an idea of what data is most beneficial to flood frequency analysis.’
They all agree that the research could save money, and people in the future.
“Back then the consequences of those types of floods were much smaller than they are now. You don`t have the development or the amount of live that lives along and is dependent on the Tennessee river,” said Yaw.
On Sunday Davis says the group discovered that floodwaters from massive floods in the past did not reach the area they were testing.
She says the discovery is a positive sign because it means the previous floods haven`t been large enough to cover the entire Tennessee Valley.