Local News

Weather Experts Face Difficult Task of Flood Forecasting

Posted July 19, 2000

— Hurricane season is here. Weather experts are trying to make sure everyone gets useful information about river flooding. The problem is reportingriver levelscan be difficult because the threat changes from town to town.

The Washington Park neighborhood in Wayne County was completely flooded afterHurricane Floyd. Today, the streets are dry. For people like Bill Sutton whose house was flooded last year, they are worried about the mention of hurricane season.

"We're all nervous because we don't know what is coming," Sutton says. "The more information you get and the sooner you get it, the better chance you can prepare, and that's the bottom line."

People rely on theNational Weather Serviceto tell them what is coming. The problem is that river levels mean different things in different locations.

"The confusion arises from the fact that you have different numbers for different sites," says Steve Harned of the National Weather Service. "A 20-foot level at one site does not mean the same thing at another site."

People also want to know how much time they have to prepare for the hurricane. For that type of specific information, they have to rely on their local emergency managers, who have the responsibility of interpreting the data and getting it out in a useful way.

"We don't want to tell people to evacuate their house and get all of the furniture and everything out when the water is not going to come into their yard," says Wayne County planning director Connie Price.

Forecasters say one of the biggest reasons they cannot be consistent when reporting flood levels is due to the shape of the river bed and the river bank.

Flooding kills more people in the U.S. each year than any other natural disaster.

The biggest mistake people make is trying to drive on flooded roads. It only takes two feet of water to sweep away a car.


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