River gauge back in operation

May 28, 1997


Staff Writer, Charles Town

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - A river depth gauge, an instrument that is useful to forecasters in predicting how high a river will crest, is back in service on the Potomac River at Shepherdstown.

The gauge had been off-line since 1995, after it was damaged and there was not enough money in the budget to restore the service, according to National Weather Service officials.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service have been hit with a series of budget cuts, which have affected the gauge system, said Richard Hitchens, a National Weather Service hydrometeorologist.


Shepherdstown Mayor Vince Parmesano said residents began lobbying hard to have a gauge restored after the January 1996 flooding showed how important the gauge was in forecasting river crests downstream.

The gauges are equipped with automated equipment which sends information to National Weather Service forecasters.

The forecasters then attempt to determine how much water is entering the river and the surrounding basin, Hitchens said.

Until the gauge was restored in Shepherdstown, the next automated gauge up the Potomac was in Hancock, Hitchens said.

"The more gauges we have, the better the information we gather and the better the forecasts are," Hitchens said.

Several government agencies were involved in putting together the new gauge, officials said.

West Virginia provided funding for the equipment while the town provided the site off Princess Street and most of the labor, Parmesano said.

The U.S. Geological Survey provided the technical assistance and the National Weather Service provided the automated equipment, they said.

The current gauge is intended to serve only temporarily until the river drops to a low enough level that a permanent gauge can be installed, Hitchens said.

The gauge cannot measure the river when it drops below five feet, but the most important information is when the river is rising.

, Hitchens said.

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