SRBC Says March 1 Shutdown of Stream and Rain Gauges in Southern Tier Will Risk Lives During Flooding

By WBNG News

SRBC Says March 1 Shutdown of Stream and Rain Gauges in Southern Tier Will Risk Lives During Flooding

February 4, 2013 Updated Feb 4, 2013 at 3:44 PM EST

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WBNG Binghamton) -- The Susquehanna River Basin Commission is urging New York’s U.S. senators and congressmen to help secure federal funds to avert the March 1 shut-down of 18 stream gauges and 16 rain gauges in the Southern Tier.

According to a news release issued Monday:

The gauges generate data used by NOAA’s National Weather Service to predict when flooding will occur.

“$215,000 is all that is needed to keep the stream and rain gauges going this year,” said SRBC Executive Director Paul Swartz. “To allow these very gauges that help save lives and reduce millions in property damages to be shut down will undoubtedly increase risks to public health and safety.”

It was less than two years ago when Tropical Storm Lee devastated southern tier communities, including record flood levels in Binghamton, Owego, Vestal, Waverly, Rockdale and Sherburne. Throughout the NWS Binghamton forecast region that covers portions of New York and northern Pennsylvania, 25,000 homes were flooded and 120,000 residents were evacuated. 

“Certainly the citizens and businesses who suffered so tremendously in September 2011 and in June 2006 must find it unthinkable that timely flood warnings could become a thing of the past.”

The stream and rain gauges, which are maintained and operated by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), generate the real-time data needed by the NWS to forecast river levels and to issue more timely and accurate early flood warnings. That information is then used by emergency managers, local officials and citizens to make critical decisions to protect life and property.

With early flood warnings, businesses and residents living in flood-prone areas have time to secure their properties and get themselves to safer locations before flooding begins.

The current funding shortfall for gauges first occurred in fiscal year 2011 with the loss of line-item funding in the federal budget for the Susquehanna Flood Forecast and Warning System, which covered the cost of the gages. Since then, funding for the gauges has been uncertain from year to year, resulting in various state and federal agencies having to cover the shortfalls on an “ad hoc” basis.

“A more viable, sustainable way of funding the USGS gauges for the long term is absolutely critical. Without the real-time information from the stream and rain gauges, communities including Binghamton, Oneonta, Corning, Elmira, Waverly and many more will be affected by the loss of advanced and timely flood warnings.

The Susquehanna River Basin, overall, is one of the most flood-prone areas in the country. More than 80 percent of the 1,400 plus municipalities in the Susquehanna basin include areas that are flood-prone.

Swartz said, “It is not a question of whether flooding will occur in the Susquehanna River Basin, but rather when it will occur and how severe it will be.”

STREAM & RAIN GAUGES IN SOUTHERN TIER NY MARKED FOR SHUT DOWN MARCH 1, 2013

18 Stream Gauges (County, River, Location)

Broome County:               Susquehanna River - Binghamton, Vestal, Windsor

Chemung County:           Chemung River - Elmira

Chenango County:          Chenango River - Greene, Norwich, Oxford, Sherburne
                                            Susquehanna River - Bainbridge
                                            Unadilla River - Rockdale

Otsego County:                Susquehanna River - Oneonta

Steuben County:              Canisteo River - West Cameron
                                            Cohocton River - Bath
                                             Tioga River - Lindley
                                             Tuscarora Creek - South Addison

Tioga County:                    Owego Creek - Owego
                                              Susquehanna River - Owego, Waverly

16 Rain Gauges (County, Location)
 

Broome County:               Vestal
Chemung County:           Elmira
Chenango County:          Bainbridge, Oxford, Sherburne
Cortland County:              Cuyler
Madison County:             Georgetown, North Brookfield
Otsego County:                Morris, Oneonta
Schoharie County:           Charlotteville
Steuben County:              Adrian, Bath, Corning, Thurston
Tioga County:                    Waverly

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