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Flooding, swift currents close Tennessee River to barge traffic

Feb 25, 2019 02:55 PM

The worst flooding since 2010 shuts down nine locks on the main stem of the river

Courtesy TVA

"Kentucky Dam tailwater is currently 342 feet and we expect it to increase an additional 2 feet over the next few days – which will be higher than the flood in 2011," the TVA said on Twitter.

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) — The Tennessee River is closed to all commercial vessel traffic as higher-than-normal rainfall has led to flooding and swift currents, Benzinga reported.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed nine locks on the main stem of the river that are used by commercial vessels, said Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman Scott Brooks. That effectively shuts the 650-mile navigable stretch from Paducah, Ky., to Knoxville, Tenn. 

The TVA said that between five and 12 inches of rain fell over parts of Tennessee last week, causing the severe flooding.

Brooks said the Pickwick and Kentucky locks at the mouth of the Tennessee River are at record levels. The Tennessee River has not seen flooding like this since 2010, he said.

The TVA, which manages navigation on the river, said "barge traffic is practically at a standstill" all the way down to the Mississippi River due to the flooding. Until the high waters recede, barges will likely be idle for several days, the TVA said.

The U.S. Coast Guard said that at the Chickamauga Lock, one downbound and two upbound barges are halted due to the closures.

Among companies potentially affected by the flooding are Westlake Chemical, which has a major chemical plant at Calvert City, Ky., and SEACOR Marine Holdings, which provides barge towing service along the Tennessee River.

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