Sunday, January 31, 2010

Frigid Waters…

It’s frigid but not entirely frozen down at the extreme lower end of the non-tidal Delaware River. Chunks of ice were floating by the Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville this morning.

An essential tool for those interested in rivers and creeks is the NWS Hydrology page (this links you the Mt. Holly station). There you find the ANNUAL WINTER/SPRING FLOOD POTENTIAL STATEMENTS and much more (ice buildup, snow cover etc.).

River ice 

Right now the flood potential is deemed to be “above normal.” Just a few days ago the Delaware River at Riegelsville gage surged to almost 16 ft. (six feet below flood stage). The river continues to run well above the median flow for January 30 at the Belvidere gage (15,000 cfs compared to 5,000 cfs).

The tributaries are running a bit above normal but that should change over the next string of dry days.

While we typically have little to no ice buildup on the lower Delaware River (with huge exceptions like the Winter of 1996 Ice Flood) the more telling ice and snow statements come from NWS’s Binghampton, NY station, which covers all of the Upper Delaware River.

As of this weekend there is little snow pack in the upper watershed, although thick ice covers the large eddies in the Pocono/Catskill reach of the river. Ice buildup sets up one of the conditions needed to cause a specific type of flood along the Delaware. A quick thaw and heavy rain on top of snow pack and ice jams can create a serious threat to communities along the river. The NYC reservoirs have no impact on this particular flood scenario.

With luck the coming spring thaw will happen gradually without any big storms so we don’t have a repeat of the April 2005 flood.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Storm heading our way...

A Flood Watch has been posted for small streams and rivers in our region. There isn't much snow around on the ground anywhere in the watershed except the mountains, where the deepwater is also still iced over.

The Delaware River, Lehigh River and most smaller creeks and rivers are running at or slightly below normal so even 2 inches of rain should not pose much of a threat for those living along a flood prone stream.

The good news is that most of the rain will be come down overnight tonight and we'll have great conditions for paddling.

Bad news is there will be a return to frigid weather by the end of the week and I am in not fit to paddle the canoe for at least 2 or maybe 3 weeks.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Winter Rivers...

Wading River - January 13, 2010 (photo by Chris Meyers)

I'm averaging less than one canoe trip per week and that won't change until March. The most recent was a wonderful winter trip on the Wading River, a pretty little stream in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. It was a cold day but not too cold for a river trip (about 35 deg.). It was exquisitely beautiful and serenely quiet. Atlantic White Cedar, amazing ice formations, scent of pine and lots of tricky maneuvering around fallen trees = balm for the soul.

It's been nearly three weeks since my last post and since then most of the waterways in the Delaware River Basin have fallen to near normal levels. The NYC reservoirs were up to almost 91% capacity at the beginning of January but have fallen a bit down to 88%.

This is time of year that we begin to assess ice build-up and the amount of snow pack, usually but not always a concern specific to the Upper Delaware watershed. The winter floods and "spring freshets" can be the most destructive of the distinct flood types that occur on the Delaware River.

More on that later, but here is an interesting discussion and list of winter floods that have occurred in New Jersey courtesy of USGS.

Taking a week off for surgery and then plan to take a trip up to Narrowsburg, NY in late January for a look at the river and to do some eagle watching.