New Flood Warning Resources Available for West Branch

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The City of West Branch, Iowa, and the U.S. Geological Survey recently partnered to provide real-time streamflow and flood warning information on the west branch of flood-prone Wapsinonoc Creek.

The City of West Branch, Iowa, and the U.S. Geological Survey recently partnered to provide real-time streamflow and flood warning information on the west branch of flood-prone Wapsinonoc Creek. 

The creek overflowed its banks in recent years and threatened the city with flooding. With three new real-time streamgages and two rain gages in place, plus notifications from the USGS WaterAlert program, West Branch is taking proactive steps to warn citizens of possible flooding.

“As a flood-impacted community, having access to real-time streamflow data will help the city respond more quickly to a potential flood event,” said City of West Branch Councilperson Mary Beth Stevenson. “The City of West Branch also hopes to use the data in the future to guide decisions about building additional projects, similar to West Branch's ‘Hoover Dam,’ to help mitigate flood impacts in town.”

This summer, USGS field crews installed a real-time stage and discharge streamgage on the creek at College Street. Two stage-only streamgages, or streamgages that measure the height of the water surface, are located north of town, one on each branch of the stream near the confluence of the west branch of Wapsinonoc Creek and an unnamed tributary. The rain gages are located at the headwaters of the two branches. Information from all of these gages will provide flood warnings and will help better predict inundation.

“The City of West Branch is excited to partner with the USGS on this project,” said City Administrator Matt Muckler. “Used in conjunction with data that are already being collected by the National Park Service in West Branch, this information will help ensure that future stormwater utility spending is allocated wisely to benefit our residents and businesses.”   

Real-time streamflow information from these and nearly 200 USGS streamgages in Iowa are transmitted via satellite to the USGS office every hour and posted on the USGS Iowa Water Science Center’s website. The real-time precipitation data is available online. This Iowa streamgage information is part of the USGS National Water Information System (NWIS), which includes over 8,000 streamgages across the county. 

Water Alert is a service that sends e-mail or text messages when certain parameters measured by the USGS data-collection station exceed user-defined thresholds. WaterAlert subscribers can customize the message for a variety of water-related scenarios, from floods, droughts and water-quality disturbances to the perfect canoeing or fishing conditions. WaterAlert can be set to send notices hourly or once a day. This service is available for all real-time monitoring sites for surface water, groundwater or water-quality parameters.

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