USGS Backs up Promise to Provide Data in Hurricane Season

The U.S. Geological Survey has set up a new downlink backup system that guarantees the availability of streamflow information from more than 7,000 USGS stream gauges across the nation. The system would work when the current downlink system is damaged during a storm, ensuring that emergency managers have uninterrupted access to the information they need.

Information about stream flows is critical to making informed decisions about flood and storm response activities before, during, and after a hurricane. In cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal, state, and local agencies, the USGS operates a stream gauge network that provides up-to-the-minute data.

"We could not accurately forecast river flows and water-levels without the data and support we receive from the USGS. When river and tide data are not available, our job of forecasting is much more difficult and typically results in diminished accuracy of those forecasts," said Dave Reed, hydrologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, La.

Real-time water data is transmitted to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES satellite. The satellite then relays the transmissions to various satellite downlinks.

The command-and-data acquisition station at Wallops Island, Va., is the most critical downlink because it is the only one to receive all of the transmissions. Since this station is located near the coast and is only about 15 feet above sea level, it is vulnerable to hurricanes and other storms. To ensure the continuity of continuous critical data in real time, the USGS, NOAA, and other agencies have partnered to establish an emergency satellite data acquisition and dissemination unit at the USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science Center located in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Real-time information on flooding (from hurricanes as well as other causes) is always available on the USGS web site: http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/flood.

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