This year proved a challenging year for the National Weather Service (NWS) as they tried to keep up with precipitation levels, flood predictions and monitoring river levels on the Big Sioux River. Over 50 river gauges along the Big Sioux River basin helped with the monitoring.

These gauges are operated by United States Geological Survey (USGS), SD Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (SD DENR), MN Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) and Iowa Flood Center (IFC). The NWS works with these agencies to access the water data collected by the river gauges.

“If you think back to 1994, we had an awful lot of flooding, but this year is by far the worst and most challenging flood season that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” National Weather Service Service Hydrologist Mike Gillispie said. “If you look at the number of river gauges that have been in flood – we’ve had at least one in my area of study that has been in major flood levels every day since March 13. So we’re at seven months of non-stop flooding going on across the region.”

Flood Forecasting

The NWS is mandated by Congress as the designated agency to provide forecast warnings of weather, water and climate to prevent the loss of life and property and promote the nation’s economy. The NWS has 13 river forecast centers which provide information to 122 local weather service stations.

There is a difference in each of the river gauges installed by the different agencies. According to Gillispie, the gauges owned by USGS provide data regarding the flow of the river in cubic feet per second (cfs) and the stage level, as while the SD DENR and MN DNR only provide the stage level.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.