USGS keeps tabs on possible floods from Bret

A pair of new stations used to track the volume of water in streams and rivers are helping the U.S. Geological Survey to understand and respond to flooding in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Bret.

The stations are four-ft.-by-four-ft. concrete buildings that usually are located near bridges that span rivers, said Donna Runkle, a USGS hydrologist. On top of the stations sits an antenna. A tube juts out from beneath the building into the river and determines the height of the water by measuring its weight.Measurements are taken every 15 minutes, and the data usually is sent by satellite to USGS offices nationwide every four hours, Runkle said. During floods, however, the stream gages will send information to USGS offices more often.

In all, 15 sites in Texas with the real-time streamflow gages have been tracking water run-off since the hurricane struck Sunday night. The two new stations, on the Los Olmos Creek and the San Fernando Creek, were directly in the storm's path, according to the USGS.

The hurricane dumped less water on the Texas coast than predicted. The rain that did fall seeped quickly into ground that was parched from recent 100-degree days and little rain this summer. Flooding damage, as a result, has been less severe than originally was forecast.

But the Texas coast may not be out of danger. Any additional rain could run off and cause flash flooding, USGS said.

USGS scientists will be studying Padre Island National Seashore and other areas in the days ahead for signs of coastal erosion, damage to wildlife and habitat as well as the effects the storm had upon water quality.

USGS data collection platforms throughout the area are being used by the International Boundary and Waters Commission to gage water levels in the Rio Grande basin in Southern Texas. The IBWC, made up of representatives from the United States and Mexico, oversees the Rio Grande River. The network of USGS streamflow gages is used to monitor water levels and keep local officials abreast of whether water levels are too high or too low.

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