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Amazing Strides in River Forecasting Since the Great Flood of March 1913
Posted on: 03/22/2013
By  Mike Cullums

When the Great Flood of 1913 ravaged the Muskingum and Ohio valleys late that March, issuing an early warning was virtually impossible.
 
Although we received a harsh reminder in September 2004 that Mother Nature can upend a modern forecast model whenever she wants, there have been vast improvements in river forecasting.
 
Sarah Jamison, National Weather Service hydrologist, says, “Nowadays, thanks to our partners, we have an extensive river gage network. We have the capability of monitoring rivers across the country – many here just in Ohio. The Ohio River Forecast Center, which is located in Wilmington, models the river. They also incorporate future rainfall forecasts that the weather service provides them. They try to generate not only real-time forecasts, but out to five-day forecasts.”
 
Locally, additional and technologically advanced river stage and flow gages have been installed recently on the Ohio at Marietta and Hannibal; on the Muskingum at Beverly (providing a much needed forecast for the last 30 miles of the river); and on Duck Creek in Washington and Noble counties.
 
The Ohio River Forecast Center and works with local NWS forecast offices and many other agencies including the Corps of Engineers, US Geological Survey, watershed conservancy districts and others. But Jamison says the risk for river flooding will always be with us.
 
“Unfortunately, despite all these efforts, the number of properties and the fact that we have so much urbanization is lowering those 500-year floodplains and the frequency of some of these events. There is still a need to remind people that there is a threat that we face. There’s nothing to prevent a storm like this from occurring again,” she points out. “Mother Nature has her own way of dealing with things. So it’s our role to try to be prepared and react appropriately to that.”
 
You can learn more about the Great Flood of 1913 by visiting the Midwestern Regional Climate Center.
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