Online flood map bolsters disaster prevention, preparation

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) this week unveiled an online service that helps federal flood control and response agencies, as well as the general public, obtain accurate, continuous forecasting and hazard information. The online service forms part of the agency's WaterWatch technology and information site, available on the Internet.

"The water monitoring systems shown on this map help ensure timely and uninterrupted water information for forecasters, emergency managers, scientists and the general public," said Robert Hirsch, USGS associate director for water. "Improved flood monitoring and assessment will help reduce the risks to communities, property and human life."

The USGS' real-time water monitoring data will help the Commerce Department's National Weather Service (NWS) to make accurate and timely flood forecasts, issue flood warnings to local emergency managers and inform operators of flood-control dams and levees to take action to reduce flood impacts, officials said.

The agency collects water level and flow data from more than 7,400 stream gages in rivers and streams, many of which provide real-time data in 15-minute increments. NWS receives the stream gage data via a satellite link.

USGS hydrographers also travel to stream gages to measure stream flow during floods. Crews now are working along the Mississippi River valley to update the flood maps, prepare forecasts, help manage emergency response operations and furnish warnings to flood plain residents.

The online service provides current flood levels, historical peaks and flood forecast information. It also includes monthly flood reports that include maximum flows and compare the data to previous years. WaterWatch's online flood map is available here.

About the Author

Kathleen Hickey is a freelance writer for GCN.

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