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Severe Flooding in the Midwest

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Heavy rainfall across the Midwest has caused major flooding. USGS National Flood Specialist Bob Holmes gives us the latest information on the rising rivers and what the USGS is doing to respond.




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Welcome, and thanks for tuning into this episode of CoreCast.  I'm Jennifer LaVista. 

Heavy rainfall across the Midwest has caused major flooding.  Joining me on the phone is USGS National Flood Specialist Bob Holmes to give us the latest information on what's taking place. 

Bob, thanks for joining us. 

Bob Holmes:  You're welcome, glad to do it. 

Jennifer LaVista:  Bob, can you please give us an overview of what's happening across the Midwest? 

Bob Holmes:  Potentially we've had an entire spring and now we're into the summer of heavy rainfall throughout a band, all the way from Oklahoma up through parts of the greater Midwest ranging from South Dakota down into Kentucky, all the way into Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois.  So a large part of that we've had numerous floods.  In fact, in Indiana we've had four separate flood events since the beginning of the calendar year and so we've had tremendous flooding and continued episodes of flooding in pretty much the same parts of the country.   

Jennifer LaVista:  What can we expect over the next few days or weeks?  

Bob Holmes:  Well, essentially we are out experiencing record floods now.  We are actually in parts of Iowa exceeding our previous record floods set back in 1993 on both the Cedar and Iowa Rivers so we've got quite a bit of flooding that's ongoing in this area and the quantitative precipitation forecast from the National Weather Service is calling for more rain this week so we're going to see further widespread flooding, so it's going to continue.  It's beginning to look a little bit like the 1993 event.  Only time will tell whether or not we've had enough rainfall to get it up to those levels on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  Right now the big flooding is limited to the smaller tributary streams such as the Iowa and Cedar Rivers, the Wabash River in Indiana, the White River in Indiana, the Fox and Coon Rivers and those kinds of areas up in Wisconsin.  And basically we will have our staff mobilized collecting data in support of our sister agencies within the Weather Service and the Army Corp of Engineers and the various state and local agencies.  

Jennifer LaVista:  Ok, tell me a little bit more about what the USGS is doing.  You mentioned collecting data, but what does that entail? 

Bob Holmes:  Well, essentially we operate around 7,000 streamflow monitoring streamgages in the United States that are operated by USGS.  Many of those are operated with funding and support from other agencies such as the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, and these gaging stations are vital to provide information that drive the computer models for the Weather Service and the Army Corp of Engineers to have their predictions of flooding and the computer models are only as good as the data we provide and we have field crews.  Right now we currently, we've probably have 40 - 50 field crews out in the Midwest, collecting data to make sure that their out their verifying the gages are operating properly, their making volumetric discharge measurements where they're actually out there in the water, on the bridges, driving around the countryside making sure that as they make their flow measurements, they call those in, they're collecting velocity data in depths and looking at where the levee breaks are at, and how that that impacts our relationships between stage and discharge.  And those kinds of data are crucial.  The Weather Service, we are in constant contact.  We actually have one of our staff is in the river forecast center for the Weather Service as we speak in Chanhassen Minnesota acting as a liaison and technical expert on these rating curves because we are seeing flood levels, especially on the Cedar River in Iowa that we've never seen before and so we're having to extend our ratings.  We have field crews out making flow measurements and they're calling those in to their respective offices and up to our liaison in the River Forecast Center and we're actually plotting those new rating curves on the fly and feeding that right into the Weather Service forecast models and being right there with them and assisting them with what's going on.

Jennifer LaVista:  Bob, is there anything else you'd like to tell our listeners?

 Bob Holmes:  Well, the real-time web page, we have a lot of people.  1993, the advent of the internet was not as prevalent as it is today  so we have a whole lot more people depending upon our data, even individual land owners and home owners along the rivers.  They're very savvy in terms of where to get the information so if people are interested in tracking the river in their area, they should consult the USGS Web site and see where the gaging stations that we operate are in their area and they can kind of keep abreast of how the river elevations and flow rates are changing. 

Jennifer LaVista:  Great, well thank you very much Bob, I appreciate it. 

Bob Holmes:  Ok 

Jennifer LaVista:  To stay up to date on the latest flood information, please visit the links below on the CoreCast page.   

Corecast is a product of the U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior. 

Until next time, I'm Jennifer LaVista. 

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