Meters to measure Blackwater’s level

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

FRANKLIN—By next hurricane season, the city will be able to make better emergency management decisions.

A grant from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management will enable the city to purchase two gauges at $16,000 each to measure water levels and warn city officials when the river rises to dangerous heights.

Franklin Fire & Rescue Chief Vince Holt told the council at Monday’s meeting about the approval, saying the grant money should be available in November.

Originally, Holt had been asked to prepare a grant package for one gauge, but he decided to try for two.

&uot;When we started looking at the project, we got the National Weather Service involved and got feedback from them about where they should go,&uot; said Holt.

&uot;They talked about two places that would be beneficial.&uot; Holt felt that applying for two wouldn’t hurt, even if only one was approved.

&uot;We were fortunate (to receive approval for both).

&uot;One of the proposed locations for the gauges is in the Zuni area,&uot; he said. &uot;Another would be somewhere in Franklin close to the Barrett’s Landing.&uot;

As a result of follow-up meetings after the nor’easter flooding in October 2006, a city All Hazards Mitigation Plan was developed.

Although the plan was adopted the following January, discussion of having more river gauges to monitor river levels has been in the works since sometime after Hurricane Floyd flooded the Blackwater River in 1999.

Presently, there is one gauge in Burdette.

When the gauges arrive, the city will work through the National Weather Service, and the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency that will actually install them.

&uot;(USGS) takes the data from the gauges and shares it with the Weather Service office in Wakefield,&uot; said Holt.

The gauges are used to monitor the river daily and also when making flood predictions.

Knowing what the river heights are could more accurately help the city pinpoint what areas may be flooded. Previously an estimate had to be made based on the levels at Burdette.

&uot;If we know what level the river has the potential of being,&uot; said City Manager Bucky Taylor, &uot;we can feed that information into the computer. And because we have all of the first-floor elevations of all the buildings (downtown), we can tell which buildings have the potential of being flooded and by how much.&uot;

Building owners can be notified of the potential flooding, giving them time to prepare their properties against the threat of disaster.