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Examination of flood characteristics at selected streamgages in the Meramec River Basin, eastern Missouri, December 2015–January 2016

September 13, 2016

Overview

Heavy rainfall resulted in major flooding in the Meramec River Basin in eastern Missouri during late December 2015 through early January 2016. Cumulative rainfall from December 14 to 29, 2015, ranged from 7.6 to 12.3 inches at selected precipitation stations in the basin with flooding driven by the heaviest precipitation (3.9–9.7 inches) between December 27 and 29, 2015. Financial losses from flooding included damage to homes and other structures, damage to roads, and debris removal. Eight of 11 counties in the basin were declared a Federal Disaster Area.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District, operates multiple streamgages along the Meramec River and its primary tributaries including the Bourbeuse River and Big River. The period of record for streamflow at streamgages in the basin included in this report ranges from 24 to 102 years. Instrumentation in a streamgage shelter automatically makes observations of stage using a variety of methods (submersible pressure transducer, non-submersible pressure transducer, or non-contact radar). These observations are recorded autonomously at a predetermined programmed frequency (typically either 15 or 30 minutes) dependent on drainage-area size and concomitant flashiness of the stream. Although stage data are important, streamflow data are equally or more important for streamflow forecasting, water-quality constituent loads computation, flood-frequency analysis, and flood mitigation planning. Streamflows are computed from recorded stage data using an empirically determined relation between stage and streamflow termed a “rating.” Development and verification of the rating requires periodic onsite discrete measurements of streamflow throughout time and over the range of stages to define local hydraulic conditions.

The purpose of this report is to examine characteristics of flooding that occurred in the Meramec River Basin in December 2015–January 2016 including peak stages, peak streamflows, and the flood-frequency statistics associated with the peak flows. A comparison between the December 2015–January 2016 flood and a similar flood in December 1982 in the Meramec River Basin also is included.