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USGS On Top of Floods in Eastern Massachusetts
Released: 6/18/1998

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Bruce Taggert 1-click interview
Phone: 508-490-5072 | FAX: 508-490-5068




Due to heavy rains pelting eastern Massachusetts in recent days, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) field crews have been leaning precariously over the sides of bridges throughout the region to obtain accurate measurements of the amount (discharge) and height (stage) of water in swollen streams.

Streamflow information, measured at established USGS monitoring stations throughout Massachusetts and the nation, is relayed to the National Weather Service (NWS) and other state and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).

This discharge and stage information is used by flood forecasters and water resources managers at the above agencies to warn the public of impending floods and also manage water levels at locks and dams, levees, and diversions.

Preliminary measurements by the USGS in eastern Massachusetts include:

· Wading River near Norton peaked on Sunday (June 14, 1998) with a discharge of about 1,460 cubic feet per second (about 944 million gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 80-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-eighty chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 410 cubic feet per second (about 9.4 million gallons per day), equivalent to about a 2-year flood.

· Neponset River at Norwood peaked on Sunday (June 14, 1998) with a discharge of about 1,230 cubic feet per second (about 795 million gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 70-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-seventy of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 760 cubic feet per second (about 491 million gallons per day), equivalent to about a 13-year flood.

· Shawsheen River near Wilmington peaked on Monday (June 15, 1998) with a discharge of about 1,240 cubic feet per second (about 800 million gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 20-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-twenty chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 1,850 cubic feet per second (about 1.2 billion gallons per day), equivalent to about a 70-year flood.

· Charles River at Waltham peaked on Sunday (June 14, 1998) with a discharge of about 2,540 cubic feet per second (about 1.6 billion gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 13-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-thirteen chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 2,990 cubic feet per second (about 1.9 billion gallons per day), equivalent to about a 25-year flood.

· Charles River at Dover peaked on Tuesday (June 16, 1998) with a discharge of about 1,880 cubic feet per second (about 1.2 billion gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 5-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-twenty chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 1,370 cubic feet per second (about 885 million gallons per day), equivalent to about a 2-year flood.

· Taunton River near Bridgewater peaked on Tuesday (June 16, 1998) with a discharge of about 2,830 cubic feet per second (about 1.8 billion gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 4-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-four chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 3,710 cubic feet per second (about 2.4 billion gallons per day), equivalent to about a 11-year flood.

· Assabet River at Maynard peaked on Monday (June 15, 1998) with a discharge of about 1,320 cubic feet per second (about 853 million gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 3-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-three chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of 1,590 cubic feet per second (about 1 billion gallons per day), equivalent to about a 4-year flood.

· Nashua River at East Pepperell peaked on Tuesday (June 16, 1998) with a discharge of about 4,500 cubic feet per second (about 2.9 billion gallons per day). Such flow is equivalent to about a 3-year flood, or one that has about a one-in-three chance of occurring in any given year. By comparison, the peak of the October 1996 flood at this site produced a flow of about 5,790 cubic feet per second (about 3.7 billion gallons per day), equivalent to about a 5-year flood.

Flood forecasters need to understand streamflow, or discharge, to warn the public accurately of pending floods. To determine discharge, hydrologists need to know stream channel capacity, which is always changing. Therefore, streams must be measured often, and especially during high flow periods when the stream channel is most apt to change. To make the measurements, USGS field crews hang weighted measuring devices (velocity meters) weighing as much as 100 pounds over bridges into the swollen and swiftly flowing streams--a dangerous and demanding task.

The stream monitoring network in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is operated and maintained by the USGS in cooperation with the following State agencies: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Metropolitan District Commission.

Note to Editors: An example of changes in stream height with time at the Neponset River at Norwood is included as a graph. Graphs of stream height at other USGS monitoring stations are available as hardcopy or in an electronic format upon request from Roy Socolow (508-490-5059).

Updated floodflow information for Massachusetts is available from the USGS District office in Marlborough, MA (508-490-5059) Updated real-time streamflow information for Massachusetts is posted on the World Wide Web at http://mass1.er.usgs.gov/water.htm


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