Water level alerts now available by cellphone message

People living near creeks and rivers don’t have to wait for the drive home to figure out if the cree

People living near creeks and rivers don’t have to wait for the drive home to figure out if the creek’s blocking their path — they can get a text message or email sent right to their cellphones.

The “WaterAlert” system, introduced last year by the U.S. Geological Survey, lets users choose just how high the water rises before a USGS computer sends off a text message or email letting them know.

Gauging stations situated on the Schoharie and Canajoharie creeks and Hudson and Mohawk rivers are among more than 9,000 sites nationwide that transmit real-time data to a satellite reporting the height of the waterways or the rate of flow.

Added to the list this year is a new gauge at Freemans Bridge in Schenectady, according to the USGS.

Using the service, those living in Lost Valley in Montgomery County might request a text message for when the Schoharie Creek gauge at Burtonsville reads 3.5 feet — one foot higher and the creek would be threatening to block off access to the Lost Valley neighborhood.

Similarly, residents concerned with the height of the Hudson River in Waterford could request notification when the gauge there reads 32 feet — that represents two feet below what the National Weather Service considers flood stage. At 34 feet, there’s widespread flooding in the area and the docks at the nearby marina are under a foot of water.

The gauge at Freemans Bridge was installed earlier this year, USGS surface water specialist Gary Firda said Monday.

It adds another means by which residents and officials can tell how close the river is to flood stage. Before it was installed, the level could be measured only by looking at a line painted on an abutment at the city’s Riverside Park off Front Street.

The acoustic Doppler system reads beams shot from the device and measures deflection to gauge the height of the river. It’s still being calibrated for flow, but data provided by the USGS on the river there will eventually include flow rate in cubic feet per second.

The new gauge was installed by the USGS in partnership with the New York Power Authority and Brookfield Power, which operate hydroelectric facilities downstream.

The old and new gauges are only a mile apart, but they use different technology and produce very different numbers for the same thing. Flood stage on the old gauge is 223 feet — the water surface level above mean sea level — but with the new gauge, flood stage will be 21 feet — the gauge’s measure of river depth.

The numbers are different but flood stage will mean the same thing for residents in nearby flood-prone areas such as Schenectady’s Stockade or Scotia’s Schonowee Avenue: Make preparations in case their neighborhoods are inundated.

To sign up for WaterAlert, go to http://water.usgs.gov/wateralert/ or search USGS Water Alert. Under Site Selection, choose New York, then click surface water.

Green triangles that appear on the New York map represent gauges where information is available. Hovering the cursor over a triangle will display the location, then clicking on the link will display current data as well as a box that reads “Subscribe.”

The computer will provide several choices, including the information sought and preferred method of delivery, text message or email. Once the user has signed up, the service sends a confirmation to the user’s email and once confirmed it’s ready to send out information.

Categories: Schenectady County

Leave a Reply