U.S. Geological Survey crews are in the field today in multiple states responding to the flooding and high water caused by Ida. The Category 4 hurricane made landfall August 29 in Louisiana hurricane with powerful storm surge, heavy rains and 150+ mph winds. The remnants of Ida are now moving through the Mid-Atlantic.
In Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, crews are making high flow measurements to capture how much water is flowing in several rivers and streams impacted by Ida. There are also crews in West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania making water measurements from rains they’ve received from the remnants of Ida. Plans are also underway in New Jersey, New York and New England to make measurements as needed depending on how much rain they receive.
The public can track changing water levels at locations of interest by checking out the USGS Flood Event Viewer, which has data from approximately 11,400 real-time USGS streamgages across the nation.
Crews in Louisiana will begin repairing more than a dozen USGS streamgages damaged or destroyed by Ida today, with the bulk of the repairs starting tomorrow. This work is vital to ensuring the data USGS streamgages provide on river levels and flow continues to reach emergency managers, flood forecasters and anyone threatened by potential flooding caused by Ida. The National Weather Service uses the data to track floodwaters in real-time as they develop flood forecasts that are used to protect lives and property, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers use it to manage flood control at dams and reservoirs across affected regions.
“Most of our damaged streamgages in Louisiana are in the marsh areas or along the coast and we aren’t going to be able to get to those for some time due to road closures and flooding,” said Aub Ward, USGS Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center Data Chief of Operations. “Our plan is to get crews out to repair equipment as soon as it can be done safely so those streamgages can get back to transmitting their critical data.”
Because streamgage and post-storm floodwater data informs decision-makers as they work to help protect the public, USGS crews will be in the field over the coming days continuing this work as needed.
Crews in Louisiana and Mississippi are also working to collect USGS storm tide sensors, which were installed before Ida made landfall to measure the storm’s coastal waves and storm tide. Storm tides are increases in ocean water levels caused by extreme storms and include the storm generated surge plus changes to water levels from local tide cycles. Storm tides are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes. They can destroy homes and businesses, wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and profoundly alter coastal landscapes.
However, due to downed trees and flooded roads, it will take time to collect all of the sensors.
“Many of our sensors in South Louisiana were installed in the hardest hit parts of the state so it will take some time to get down there,” said John Storm, a USGS hydrologist. “Today and tomorrow we hope to be able collect some sensors in Mississippi and in Western Louisiana and we will collect the rest as we can get to them.”
In the coming weeks, the data obtained from the storm tide sensors can help the Federal Emergency Management Agency tell the difference between wind and water damage – important information for property owners and insurers. The data can also improve coastal change forecast and storm surge models and provide information used by FEMA to update the nationwide flood zone maps that underpin the federal flood insurance program.
Storm tide sensor deployment locations for Ida can also be found on the Flood Event Viewer, although the data from those instruments aren’t available in the viewer until the sensors are collected and the data processed.
For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the U.S. 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.