Hundreds of flood gauges shutting off just in time for flooding


Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, Ky.- There are 8,000 gauges in rivers and streams all over the nation constantly monitoring water levels, flow, temperatures, and lots of other information. It's one of the ways the National Weather Service predicts when to send out flood warnings, but just in time for the Spring rains, the sequester is shutting down hundreds of gauges.

Mike Norris, the Program Coordinator of the National Streamflow Information Program, told WPSD public safety is their number one priority.

"We have made every effort to not discontinue funding for a stream gauge that is critical for the protection of life and property," he said. He added that there are gauges used for flooding forecasting that will shut down, but none of them will be shut down if there is current flooding or threat of flooding.

Donnie Keeling, Hydrologic Technician for the USGS out of Murray, Kentucky said, to his knowledge, there are no gauges in his area on the chopping block, but he knows first hand how much the information is used.

"For recreational purposes, for agriculture, for engineering purposes, for waste water treatment,"he said. "This is unbiased, free data."

Data that Norris said the USGS wants and needs just as much as every one else does.

"Once the opportunity to collect the data has come and gone, we can't go back and get it so we're going to have holes in our data set," he explained. Data that helps predict when the next major flood could happen.

A final number of gauges and specific locations is expected by the end of this week or the beginning of next week.