New technology making flood gage readings more accurate

Cairo, Ill. using new flood technology

CAIRO, Ill. (KFVS) - The Flood of 2019 is breaking duration records on many river gages in the Heartland and new technology is making those readings more accurate.

The Cape Girardeau gage has now been above flood stage for 126 days and counting.

Since so many people rely on hydrograph readings and forecasts, Hydraulic Engineer Michael Lamport with the US Army Corps said they’re adding more flood gages that use scientific tools.

“This has been one of the wettest years that I can remember,” Lamport said. “This is the third highest water level we have seen, but this event has been the longest. We’ve had 186 days above flood stage here at the Cairo gage, 157 of those consecutively.”

Flood gage readings have come a long way since they were first collected in Cairo in 1858.

Lamport said they still manually read river levels, but also use pressure level sensors that send data back through a satellites every hour.

"If you ever dive into the deep end of a pool and you feel that pressure on your ears.That is what that this is reading,” Lamport said. “So it's the pressure of the water pushing down on the sensor and it can correlate that to the height of water above it."

With more rain on the way from what is left of Hurricane Barry, Lamport said the new technology helps them create models of how that rain will impact different river towns.

“It helps us make better predictions so we can forecast future river stages,” Lamport said. "And to get a sense of who is impacted, who is going to be impacted and get the word out to those through emergency management agencies and let them know potential danger is coming.”

Lamport said they have hundreds of flood gages in the Heartland and the program is constantly growing.

"We're constantly setting up more gages in locations along highway bridges,” Lamport said. “We have crossed smaller rivers and tributaries to be able to collect more data and to be able to better understand the river we have in our district."

Back in Cape Girardeau the Mississippi River will finally transition to minor flood stage on Tuesday, July 16 and is forecast to stay in that category the rest of the month.

All of the flood gage readings are available to the public and can be found at www.rivergages.com.

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