New flood gauge on San Bernard
Posted on Jun 1st, 2017
USGS recently installed a new facility at the Hwy 35 bridge on the San Bernard west of West Columbia. This is similar to instrumentation located at East Bernard and Boling.
The United States Geological Survey, USGS, is installing a new flood gauge at State Highway 35 on the San Bernard River. The gauge will be similar to those at Boling and East Bernard, sending flow and depth data via telemetry to the National Weather Service River Forecast Center in Ft. Worth. The data is used by the Forecast Center to generate the flow and depth hydrographs and predictions can be viewed at the link (NOAA Hydrological Prediction Service "San Bernard River Near Sweeny") that is maintained at the bottom of this home page.
The only flood data currently available for the tidal portion of the San Bernard is a "staff gauge", basically a board with depth markings on it, located at the Phillips 66 barge terminal. The terminal operator reads the gauge each morning at 8 a.m. and passes that on to the NWS by phone. The new gauge will automatically and continuously transmit flow and depth data giving the River Forecast Center timely information for their predictions. It will also allow residents of the lower part of the river to see for themselves in real time what is happening just upstream.
In February of 2015, Friends of the River invited Dave Schwertz, Senior Service Hydrologist for the Houston/Galveston NWS office, to speak at our annual State of the River meeting. Dave was amazed to learn how much residential development there is down here and promised to look into the possibility installing an automated gauge on the tidal portion of the river. Although thought was given to the current location at the terminal, the SH 35 location provides easy access for installation and maintenance, avoids the complications associated with a facility on private property, and provides several miles of additional "lead time" between the gauge and residents downstream.
Dave has since retired and Katie Landry has taken his place as Senior Service Hydrologist for this area.
Translating the historical information from the Phillips Terminal to the new location, reevaluating the "Action Level" and "Minor, Moderate and Severe" flooding categories and building the new hydrograph will take time, but Ms. Landry hopes everything will be completed later this summer. This is the link to the site from which the new river level data is being transmitted "USGS Current Conditions San Bernard near Sweeny".
Best wishes from FOR San Bernard to Dave Schwertz in his retirement, and thanks to Dave, Katie Landry and USGS for this great new flood prediction tool. It's nice to see our tax dollars at work!
-–Tom Ronayne, FOR Director