Years ago, flooding became the number one weather related killer in the United States. National Weather Service statistics show 90 Americans die from flooding each year. The loss of life has made improved heavy rain forecasting, leading to potential flooding a high priority in recent decades.
A large part of understanding potential river flooding is having an historical record of stream flow and current river levels as well as on-site rain gauges.
It is for the reasons stated above that the scheduled closing of hydro-logic gauges in our area is raising concern.
As part of the federal budget sequestration, the USGS is being ordered to discontinue up to 375 stream gauges nationwide. Here in Oregon, 12 gauges are scheduled to be shut down, some as early as May 1st, due to lack of funding to maintain. Gauges be shut down include:
A stream flow gauge on the John Day River at McDonald Ferry, which holds a 106 year old climate record. Rain gauges on the Molalla River near Canby, Willamette River below the falls at Oregon City, the Clackamas River at Estacada, the Nehalem River near Vernonia and the Wilson River near Tillamook.
While it is true that both forecast models and radar provide estimated rainfall, there is no replacement to having automated rain gauges on the ground to verify heavy rainfall.
Without having the gauges, heavy rainfall may go unnoticed, at least raising slightly the risk of delayed flood warnings.
For a complete list of gauge closures, please go to: streamstatsags.cr.usgs.gov/ThreatenedGages/gmaps/or_gm_base.html
KGW Meteorologist Rod Hill
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