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Heavy Snowfall Increases Potential For Flooding In The Delaware River Basin

For Immediate Release

February 20, 2003

(WEST TRENTON, N.J.)  - Heavy snow pack and the forecast for warmer temperatures and rain this coming weekend have increased the potential for flooding in the Delaware River Basin.

The recent snow storm has built up the basin's snow pack to its highest level since January 1996 when a record-breaking snowfall, followed by heavy rain and unseasonably warm temperatures, produced extensive flooding in the basin.

"We urge residents to monitor on-line flood forecast information, television and radio news broadcasts, and NOAA weather radio reports during this period of higher than normal flood potential," said Carol R. Collier, executive director of the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC). "Because flooding from ice jams can occur quickly, stream-side residents should pay close attention to water levels and be ready to evacuate, if necessary."

Since the snow-melt flood of 1996, snow pack monitoring in the basin has been improved. The National Weather Service's (NWS') National Operational Remote Sensing Center makes daily snow pack estimates and posts them on its web site at http://www.nohrsc.nws.gov/.

These estimates and other snow pack observations by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and New York City are used by the NWS in its runoff modeling to develop river flood crest forecasts. When flood crests are predicted, they are posted by the NWS' Mt. Holly, N. J., office for the portion of the basin downstream of the Delaware Water Gap (near Stroudsburg, Pa.) at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/marfc/Forecasts/PHI_index.html, and by the NWS' Binghamton, N.Y., office for the area upstream of the Delaware Water Gap at http://www.erh.noaa.gov/er/marfc/Forecasts/BGM_index.html.

Statements on river ice conditions also are posted at these addresses under "Special River Statements." These NWS forecasts are available on the DRBC web site at www.drbc.net along with a wealth of other flood-related material.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Coast Guard also monitor ice conditions in the basin, which extends some 330 miles from the Delaware River's headwaters in the Catskill Mountains town of Hancock, N.Y., downstream to the mouth of the Delaware Bay.

As of February 19, ice jams were observed at the following locations: Delaware River at Port Jervis, N.Y.; above Milford, Pa.; and at Tocks Island and Trenton, N.J.; Schuylkill River above Reading, Pa.; East and West branches of Brandywine Creek in Chester County, Pa.; and Perkiomen Creek at Graterford, Pa.

As with flooding from runoff, flood forecasts associated with ice jams are posted by the NWS at the previously listed web sites.

The presence of a heavy snow pack can interfere with normal drainage and cause property damage, including basement flooding.

The following general guidance is applicable to the present snow melt flood potential

  • Clear gutters, down spouts, and blocked storm drains;
  • Make sure sump pumps are operating properly;
  • Stay tuned to local T.V. and radio news broadcasts, and monitor on-line information sources;
  • Monitor flood forecast information on NOAA weather radio;
  • If located in a flood plain, have a plan ready for moving personal property and pets if a flood warning is issued, and for finding shelter if an evacuation is ordered;
  • Do not drive on flooded roadways.

Additional recommendations for improving snow melt drainage around homes and other structures can be found at the North Dakota State University web site: http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood/home/preventing-snow-melt-water-problems.

A number of public organizations offer tips on preparations for flooding. This information is available on the DRBC web site. In addition, a number of home insurance company web sites provide guidance on flood preparedness.

The DRBC hosts a Flood Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from 18 different flood loss reduction organizations in the Delaware River Basin. The committee has prepared a report with recommended flood warning improvements for the basin. These improvements are built around the NWS' Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Services, which incorporates advances in Doppler Radar technology, runoff modeling, and computer technology to provide improved, graphically based flood forecast products.

Federal funding for these improvements is being sought. Copies of the report are available on the DRBC web site or upon request to the DRBC.


Contact: Clarke Rupert, 609-883-9500 ext. 260