Thursday, February 22, 2007

Flood Watch 2007!

The talk of the town around Montpelier these days is the possible flood coming our way over the next month. I'm not an expert on floods but, based upon a few articles, here's what seems to be going on:

Earlier in the winter, an ice jam formed in the Winooski River which runs through town. The jam is just west of downtown before the river passes under I-89. That has constricted the flow of water which has led to more build-up of ice up the river from the jam. That sets the scene for what might cause the flooding. If we get a nice gentle warming over the next six weeks, the jam may melt without any flooding. However, if we get one or two of those classic late March days where it warms up to 50 degrees and rains heavily, we're fucked.

Downtown Montpelier flooded on March 11, 1992 when an ice jam formed up by the intersection of the Winooski River and North Branch. You can see where the town flooded in this map. The flooded areas are blue. Thankfully, our house is up on a hill and not in danger.

You can see a pair of pictures of the 1992 flood here.

The problem with that flood was that people only had about 15 minutes warning. This time the town has a few weeks to prepare. So, people are starting to move things out of their basements; and their first floors in the particularly low-lying areas. My wife works on the edge of downtown and we'll spend some time this weekend moving her stuff out of the basement. It'll be a hassle but it's a good bit of caution. Hopefully, it'll prove entirely unnecessary in a few weeks.

If you feel like monitoring the level of the river, the USGS has a gage in the Winooski and a website that provides data from that gage. The chart on the bottom of the page (and at the top of this post) shows the current height of the river. Right now, it's about 6 ft. right now depending on the time of the day. The low-lying basements start to flood at 9 ft. and the river will spill over the banks into downtown at 15 ft.

Here's to hoping that we have a lot of dry 38 degree days over the next month.


Crash Calloway said...

I live on the hilly side of a big flood plain, over the other side of the ocean from you. The river can be relied upon to flood a few times a year and maybe once a year to really FLOOD and close off most of the access to the town centre. It's quite something to see, but it must be terrible to be in one of the now uninsurable places up close to it. Good luck!

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