USGS teams are in the field tracking Virginia and West Virginia floodwaters

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Reporters: Do you want to interview USGS scientists as they measure flooding? Please contact Shaun Wicklein at smwickle@usgs.gov or 804-399-9929. 

Six teams of U.S. Geological Survey scientists are in the field this week in Virginia and West Virginia, documenting extensive flooding that has prompted a federal disaster declaration. The scientists’ work will help federal emergency managers funnel relief to the hardest-hit areas in the two states, where the Associated Press reported on Monday that 20 people have died and three are missing and floodwaters have damaged hundreds of homes.

The flooding follows intense rainfall that began Thursday, June 23 along a path from Charleston, West Virginia to Roanoke, Virginia. Rainfall amounts totaled between 2 and 10 inches in the area, with the heaviest rain falling in the Greenbrier and Upper James basins. Rivers affected include the Gauley, Elk, and Lower Greenbrier basins in West Virginia and the Upper James and Roanoke basins in Virginia.

The USGS has streamgages in place along these rivers and many others nationwide. Beginning on Friday, June 24, hydrology experts from the USGS’ Virginia and West Virginia Water Science Centers have been in the field verifying water flows at these gauges and documenting high water marks that show the depth of flood waters. This week, three two-person teams are working in the area around Covington, Virginia and three more teams are in the hard-hit region around the resort town of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Floodwater heights and water flows recorded on the USGS streamgage network in the past week have set numerous new records. In Virginia, the James River at Buchanan was measured near the peak at a stage of 20.29 feet and a flow of  43,500 cubic feet per second. In West Virginia, the highest measured flow was on the Gauley River near Craigsville, with a stage of 27.56 feet and a flow of 49,300 cubic feet per second.

USGS crews will keep tracking the movement of the floodwaters as rains continue and the water moves downstream. This information is critical for resource managers and emergency responders to help protect life and property. For more information on the USGS’ ongoing response to flooding in Virginia and West Virginia, contact supervisory hydrologist Shaun Wicklein at smwickle@usgs.gov or 804-399-9929.

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the United States. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk and for many recreational activities.

Access current flood and high flow conditions across the country by visiting the USGS WaterWatch website. Receive instant, customized updates about water conditions in your area via text message or email by signing up for USGS WaterAlert. See where floodwaters go by following a stream trace at Streamer. View water data on your mobile device. Learn how a USGS streamgage works.

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