RESTON, Va., May 17 (UPI) — The U.S. Geological Survey says preliminary estimates confirm rivers across middle Tennessee crested at record high levels early in May, some by 14 feet.
USGS officials said the highest flood levels were recorded May 2-3 from Nashville west toward Jackson, extending about 40 miles north and south of Interstate 40, and affecting major tributaries of the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.
The flood peak on the Cumberland River in downtown Nashville ranks as the 10th highest in more than 200 years of records and the highest observed during the past 73 years.
At least four major tributaries of the lower Cumberland River met or exceeded warning levels established by the National Weather Service for major flooding conditions, officials said.
Flood peaks on the Harpeth River at Bellevue exceeded the USGS record at that site, measured in 1948, by more than 9 feet. The Harpeth River near Kingston Springs was 14 feet higher than the previous recorded peak from 1946.
“Most tributaries to the lower Cumberland River had flows with only a 1-in-500 chance in any given year, causing the lower Cumberland to flood with a severity that was almost entirely unexpected,” said Rodney Knight, surface-water specialist with the USGS Tennessee Water Science Center. “That a regulated river like the Cumberland could have such high flooding is unusual and is a testament to the severity of this event.”
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