2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire

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USGS installed six early-flood-warning units—rain and stream gages—in the burned areas resulting from New Mexico's 2012 Whitewater-Baldy Fire. The gages transmit data via satellite to provide warnings to communities that may be affected by flooding.


Date Taken:

Length: 04:09:00

Location Taken: Catron County, NM, US


Whitewater-Baldy Fire Transcript
Dylan Cobean : The Whitewater-Baldy Fire was started by lightning and burned about 300,000 acres of the Gila National Forest, making it the largest fire in New Mexicoís history.
Now that the fire is largely contained, attention has shifted to preparing for post-fire flooding with the onset of the monsoon season.
USGS scientists installed rain gages at Mogollon Baldy Lookout and Hummingbird Saddle in the Gila Wilderness Area.
Mike Sanders: This is the trail up to Hummingbird Saddle, and itís nice to see already got some new growth here, thereís new life popping up. Iíve never seen anything so charredÖall the way to the top. But you can hear the birds singing. 
This is our worksite we are starting to prepare equipment for the rain gage. There are still some fires burning, off in the distance. Weíve got the rain gage mostly erected. The big parts are put together. Robert and Ryan are finishing mixing the concrete. Got the hole dug, and we are about ready to drop that thing in and add another bag of concrete. 
Kanon Welhouse:  So we got a rain gage up there, GOES antenna, solar panel, the usual stuff. Itís on a tower here; hereís the base we poured.
Weíre installing a stream flow gage here at Mineral Creek. Got Kurt up there, hooking up the rain gage. Fletcher is getting ready to scale the wall here, do a little recon run to see where we are going to run our orifice line.   
Dylan Cobean: Collected data will allow scientists and emergency managers to evaluate the increased risk of flooding resulting from burned areas within watersheds. Gage data can also be used to determine the rate of a watershedís recovery.
The gages provide warnings to communities that may be affected by flooding and can provide up to 60 minutes advance warning of impending floods.
Robert Fritzinger: Fletcher and Ken are finishing up the orifice line. Thereís Jeff Balmat. Jeff and Hanna Coy are finishing up with the DCP ìData Collecting Platformî.  Got the orifice right there attached to the T-REX mount system. 
Dylan Cobean: Stream gages installed in burned areas need a variety of sensors to handle the extreme conditions of runoff.  Non-contact sensors, such as radar, can be used alongside redundant sensors to ensure the survivability of the gage.
The installation of the early warning gages was a cooperative effort by The New Mexico Department of Security & Emergency Management, The Natural Resources Conservation Service, The US Forest Service, and The USGS.
The gages ensure that emergency managers have the critical information they need to help the residents located downstream of the fire protect themselves and their homes from potential flooding.