How can I obtain river forecasts (flood forecasts)?

River forecasts (flood forecasts) are made by the National Weather Service River Forecast Centers and released through local Weather Service Offices. The NOAA Web site has a map showing the location of the forecast centers, their areas of responsibility, and the location of the gages they use.

The vast majority of current streamflow data used for these forecasts is obtained from U.S. Geological Survey stream-gaging stations, but the USGS has no other responsibility or authority for making forecasts.

See also: Where can I find flood maps?

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Is there a way to get alerts about streamflow conditions?

Yes! The USGS offers two services: WaterAlert - automated emails or text messages are sent to you whenever certain parameters (that you define) are exceeded at one of our gaging stations. WaterNow - Send an email or text message to WaterNow@usgs.gov containing the USGS Site Number of the gage you want to query (optionally add parameter codes to...

Where can I get real-time and historical streamflow information?

The best starting point for USGS streamflow data is the interactive National Water Information System (NWIS): Mapper website. Zoom in to your area of interest or use the search options in the left navigation window. The map displays active surface-water sites by default, but you can change the type of water site (surface-water, groundwater,...

How do we benefit from USGS streamgages?

Information on the flow of rivers is a vital national asset that safeguards lives, protects property, and ensures adequate water supplies for the future. The USGS is the federal agency responsible for operating a network of about 7,000 streamgages nationwide. Data from this network are used by water managers, emergency responders, utilities,...

Where can I find flood maps?

FEMA is the official public source for flood maps for insurance purposes: FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center NOAA is responsible for producing flood forecast maps that combine precipitation data with USGS streamflow data: National Flood Forecasts Interactive Flood Information Map USGS flood map products include: USGS Flood Information : Maps and...

How are floods predicted?

Flood predictions require several types of data: The amount of rainfall occurring on a realtime basis. The rate of change in river stage on a realtime basis, which can help indicate the severity and immediacy of the threat. Knowledge about the type of storm producing the moisture, such as duration, intensity and areal extent, which can be valuable...

What are the two types of floods?

There are two basic types of floods: flash floods and the more widespread river floods. Flash floods generally cause greater loss of life and river floods generally cause greater loss of property. A flash flood occurs when runoff from excessive rainfall causes a rapid rise in the water height (stage) of a stream or normally-dry channel. Flash...
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Date published: September 18, 2018

USGS Science – Leading the Way for Preparedness

Learn About USGS Hazards Science and More About National Preparedness Month: The very nature of natural hazards means that they have the potential to impact a majority of Americans every year.  USGS science provides part of the foundation for emergency preparedness whenever and wherever disaster strikes.

Date published: February 22, 2017

Stormy weather: How the USGS goes to work monitoring its effects

Atmospheric rivers are a global weather phenomenon that can bring large amounts of rain or snow to the U.S. West Coast each year. These rivers of wet air form over the Pacific Ocean near Hawaiʻi and pick up large amounts of moisture from the tropics and on their way to the West Coast. This moisture is carried in narrow bands across the Pacific Ocean to California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada.

Attribution: Natural Hazards, Pacific
Date published: February 1, 2017

The Vital Nature of Streamgaging

Gary Moore spent the last three days of 2015 stacking hefty bags of sand in front of a fellow church member’s brick home. With only 1,000 feet between the house and the swelling Mississippi and Meramec Rivers, Moore and other volunteers worked quickly, in frigid temperatures, to assemble a 10-foot high, 1,000-foot-long sandbag wall to ward off floodwaters.

Date published: August 22, 2016

Fighting the Floods

The USGS response to the Louisiana floods is part of the larger USGS flood science mission...

Date published: March 22, 2016

Follow Your Stream to Learn About Water

Explore America's streams and rivers from your computer or mobile device.

Date published: February 26, 2013

Stay Current on Your Rivers with USGS WaterNow

For the first time, anyone can find out the current conditions on thousands of rivers and streams across the country, right from their phone, using USGS' latest system WaterNow.WaterNow makes the water conditions monitored by more than 16,000 streamgages and other sites across the country available via text or email. 

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Tennessee FloodWatch Infographic
June 26, 2017

Tennessee FloodWatch Infographic

Tennessee FloodWatch Infographic

March 12, 2016

USGS Measures Historic Flooding in eastern Texas

A USGS field crew takes flood measurements on the Sabine River on March 12 near Bon Weir, Texas. USGS scientists on the boat included Jeff East, Jimmy Hopkins, and Jody Avant.

video thumbnail: The Anatomy of Floods: The Causes and Development of 2011's Epic Flood Events
July 31, 2012

The Anatomy of Floods: The Causes and Development of 2011's Epic Flood Events

Flooding costs the United States more than $7 billion per year and claims more than 90 lives annually. During the Spring and Summer of 2011, the central U.S. experienced epic flooding, while Hurricane Irene followed by Tropical Storm Lee caused severe flooding in the east and northeastern U.S, setting numerous flood records at USGS streamgages. Dr. Robert Holmes discusses

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October 14, 2009

Streamgages: The Silent Superhero

Whether you drink water from your tap, use electricity or canoe down your local river, chances are you benefit from USGS streamgage information. So what is a streamgage and what does it do for you? This CoreCast episode gives you the inside scoop on your silent superhero.

Transcript and captions available soon.

Measuring streamflow using ADCP during flooding in January 2017, Carson River, Nevada

Measuring streamflow using ADCP during flooding

Measuring streamflow using ADCP during flooding in January 2017, Carson River, Nevada. 

Floodplain inundated with water

Floodplain inundated with water

Floodplain inundated with water 

USGS flood-inundation maps for the Saluda River near Greenville, South Carolina.

3DEP, flood inundation maps

USGS flood-inundation maps for the Saluda River near Greenville, South Carolina. A lidar-derived elevation model was used to aid in hydraulic modeling to create these maps.

Flooding, Memphis TN, May 10, 2011

Flooding, Memphis TN, May 10, 2011.

Flooding in the Memphis, Tennesse area, May 10, 2011. (Credit, Jeff Roberson, AP)