Flood warning system improvements planned for Delaware River Basin
The flood warning system for the Delaware River and some of its feeder streams is being upgraded, a move aimed at reducing flood losses in future years.
WEST TRENTON, N.J., March 29, 2001 — The flood warning system for the Delaware River and some of its feeder streams is being upgraded, a move aimed at reducing flood losses in future years.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and National Weather Service (NWS) will be adding the much needed monitoring and communications equipment to the Delaware River Basin's flood alert system during the next few months. The move comes less than two years after the remnants of a nasty hurricane named Floyd caused serious flooding in the basin.
Additions and upgrades to the warning system include:
— A new stream gauge for the Schuylkill River at Norristown, Pa.
— Re-installation and modernization of a stream gauge at Tocks Island, N.J., in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
— Improved hydrologic data for stream gauges at four locations, including the Lehigh River at Lehighton, Pa., the Schuylkill River at Berne, Pa., the Brodhead Creek at Minisink Hills, Pa., and the Perkiomen Creek at Graterford, Pa.
— Improved monitoring at the stream gauge on the Brodhead Creek at Minisink Hills.
— Modernization of the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Weather Radio system in Philadelphia to improve coverage.
— Addition of two new NOAA Weather Radio transmitters in Sussex County, N.J., and in Sudlersville, Md. These combine with existing transmitters to extend weather radio coverage throughout the entire Delaware River Basin.
Many people still have vivid memories of September 16, 1999, the day Floyd brushed the New Jersey coast, unleashing up to almost a foot of rain in parts of the basin. The extensive flooding that occurred then can and will happen again. It is just a matter of when.
Despite programs to acquire flood prone property, most flood plains in the Delaware River Basin are still highly developed. Flood warning, provided by the National Weather Service through a partnership with public and private organizations, is a real, every day need.
The overall goal of flood preparedness is to reduce loss of life and property damage. There are many activities, in addition to flood warning and response programs, which support this aim: flood plain regulations, property buyouts, storm water management, flood-proofing, structural flood controls like dams and levees, and flood insurance administration. These are particularly important to prevent new flood damage in developing areas and encourage wise flood plain use.
Recently, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) formed a Flood Advisory Committee in an effort to boost public awareness of flooding potential and improve coordination among various agencies in an effort to increase much-needed funding levels.
The committee is designed to provide a forum for coordination of flood related activities and promote efficient use of technical and financial resources for the benefit of the basin community. It will forward any recommendations to the commission for submission to organizations with flood preparedness and flood loss reduction responsibilities.
Stream gauges equipped with satellite telemetry are critical to a flood warning network. There are currently 46 flood forecast points in the Delaware River Basin. The National Weather Service uses rainfall observations, stream stage data, and computer modeling to forecast flood levels at river forecast points during storm events. NOAA Weather Radio, television and radio, and emergency communications networks are used to broadcast the flood forecasts to local emergency managers.
NOAA Weather Radio receivers can be purchased at many electronics stores at a relatively low cost (usually under $50). The USGS, the NWS, and the DRBC urge anyone living along a waterway to purchase such a radio, which often is capable of automatically sounding an alarm when an emergency signal is transmitted.
The cost of these radios with their early alert systems is minuscule considering their potential to reduce economic losses due to flooding — estimated at $4.5 billion nationally and $35 million within the Delaware River Basin.
The stream gauging program in the basin is operated by the USGS. Most stream gauges are jointly funded through a cooperative program among the USGS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the basin states of Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, the DRBC, as well as utilities and industries. More information on the importance of stream gauges can be found on the DRBC's website at http://www.drbc.net.
The National Weather Service also provides general guidance on flash flood potential and will provide technical assistance to communities interested in improving their level of flash flood preparedness. The Army Corps' Floodplain Management Services Branch provides similar services.