Sevier County Takes Proactive Approach to Flood Safety with Flood Monitoring Software

Sevier County, Tennessee – Monday, February 26, 2024 – Sevier County Emergency Management Agency (EMA), in partnership with the Cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Pittman Center and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has worked diligently to expand the City of Gatlinburg’s Flood Warning System throughout other areas of Sevier County. The Flood Warning System is comprised of field sensors and a web-based software called Contrail that monitors streams, rivers, and precipitation levels across Sevier County. This innovative technology serves as an invaluable tool for protecting lives and property by providing early notification of potential flooding events.

"The safety and well-being of our residents and visitors is our top priority," stated Sevier County EMA Director Joe Ayers. "With the unpredictable nature of Tennessee weather, it's crucial to have cutting-edge resources to stay ahead of potential threats. Contrail Flood Warning Software empowers us to proactively monitor local waterways and issue timely warnings in the event of rising water levels."

Flooding events/flash floods are not uncommon in Sevier County. Due to the higher elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, average annual precipitation in the national park ranges from 58”-86” and some higher elevations of the park receive over 70” of snowfall annually. Runoff from this precipitation has the potential to lead to streams and rivers that flow into and through parts of Sevier County. Given the number of Sevier County residents (100,000+), as well as, the millions of visitors that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park brings to the area, proper and timely notification is crucial to protecting lives and property.

By collecting and analyzing real-time data on streamflows, precipitation, and other weather factors, the software triggers alerts when potential flooding situations are detected. This data allows local officials to disseminate early warnings to residents and emergency responders, enabling them to take necessary precautions.

While a flood warning system was in place on the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River, the July 2022 flood event that impacted the Pittman Center area reinforced the need to expand the system to other areas across Sevier County. Sevier County and the Cities of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and Pittman Center had already committed to expanding the system, but the event hastened the efforts to get sites installed on the major tributaries.

The first flood monitoring site was installed on the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River just eleven (11) months following the July 2022 flood event. Additionally, a second site was installed at the Ramsey Prong shortly thereafter.

As of January 2024, flood warning system sites have been installed on major tributaries including, the Middle and East Prongs of the Little Pigeon River and the Waldens Creek Watershed, with ongoing evaluation to add more sites.

In addition to monitoring stream and river conditions, the software also provides real-time data such as temperatures, wind speed, wind direction, and more. This date aids local emergency officials with other potential weather-related events. In November 2023, the area faced an extreme risk of wildfires due to drought conditions. The software aided local officials by providing real-time data on wind speeds and fuel moisture levels.

During Tennessee Severe Weather Awareness Week (February 25 – March 2), Sevier County EMA encourages residents (and visitors) to take individual responsibility for not only flood preparedness but all potential weather-related emergencies. One way to do this is to sign up to receive CodeRED Emergency Alerts. CodeRED is an emergency notification service by which local officials can notify residents and visitors by telephone/cell phone about emergency situations that may be impacting their area.

Sign up to receive CodeRED Emergency Alerts here: https://public.coderedweb.com/CNE/en-US/BFF333CFFEA0

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About Sevier County Emergency Management Agency
The Sevier County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) works diligently to protect the lives and property of Sevier County residents and visitors through comprehensive emergency preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation efforts.

Sevier County Government                                                               
Contact: Tyler Basler
Director of Public Affairs & Communications
Phone: (865) 774-3643
Email: tbasler@seviercountytn.gov