Palo ready to fund its part for river gauges - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Palo ready to fund its part for river gauges

CORALVILLE (KWWL) - A recent warm-up in the weather didn't lead to any flooding, but in just a few months, we will once again be dealing with melting snow and rising rivers.

One of the communities most fearful of another flood is Palo. The Linn County Town was hit hard by the June 2008 floods, forcing an evacuation.

Now they're asking for a river gauge to warn them of another disaster.

The U.S. Geological Survey showed us how these gauges work, and how they can be useful to cities and towns near rivers. One of them, on the Muddy Creek in Coralville, is identical to the ones Palo is pushing for.

There's hardware in this box that can detect when a river is rising and predict how high it will go, according to USGS Biologist Jason McVay.

"They'll actually be a forecast point for the National Weather Service, where they'll be able to have a prediction of what their flood peak is going to be."

McVay says sensor stations like this can be vital to flood-prone communities, giving them time to evacuate or prepare for a future disaster.

"If it entails building levees or floodwalls, or whatever the city needs to do," said McVay.

A tube runs from the box to the river or stream, where a small amount of air is pushed out underwater. As the water rises, it puts pressure on the tube and pushes back against the airflow, which is read by sensors.

"That's how we're able to describe what gauge height is."

That information is bounced off a satellite, then back to the National Weather Service and USGS, as quickly as every half-hour. The data can be read online, or used to issue a flood warning.

USGS Lead Technician Doug Goodrich says it played a vital role during the 2008 flood.

"If it gets to this certain stage, it may start flooding my basement or start flooding my first floor, or whatever."

Goodrich says the gauges cost about $17,000 to install, and about $7,000 a year to maintain.

Similar devices are used along the Gulf Coast, especially in areas like New Orleans, to detect flooding.

Online Reporter - Brady Smith

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