Will we have a late winter flood on the Delaware this coming Monday? Maybe, but last Monday was a perfect winter day to be out on the river with paddling buddy Chris Meyers. We saw two powerboats and nobody else ventured out on the water. The river was running just above 5’, which is a nice level for winter paddling.
Delaware River near Devils Tea Table (March 1, 2010)
The river has steadily risen to over 6.75’ at the Riegelsville gage thanks to the warm weather and snow melt.
Next week is FLOOD SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK and if the impending storm acts as predicted floodplain dwellers will be acutely aware of flooding.
Rainfall in the amount of 2” to 4” is predicted for the Delaware River Basin and if it’s the higher amount many smaller streams could flood.Some locales could receive 5" or more.
Friends living along the Upper Delaware tell me that there isn’t much snow on the ground on the Catskill side of the river. I’m not sure if that applies to the Pocono Mountain side of the river. River ice appears to have disappeared. The three NYC reservoirs are down to 85% of capacity, which depending on where the rain falls, could help mitigate flooding on the Upper Delaware. NYC could lower the reservoirs to 50% and that would not necessarily eliminate the flood threat for those living below the confluence of the Delaware River and Lehigh River. The watershed of the Lehigh River alone is roughly equivalent in size to all three of the big reservoirs' watershed area combined.
Snow pack conditions in the East Branch Delaware and West Branch Delaware were “above normal” according to the National Weather Service Hydrologic Outlook report from Binghamton, NY (March 5). That has likely changed somewhat over the past several days, but this could still pose a major threat if heavy rain falls in the uppermost portion of the river basin.
There is probably some amount of snow left along the hemlock-shaded slopes of the tributary headwaters, and the ground is still fairly saturated; most of what falls on the watershed will rapidly runoff to the nearest waterway.
The Delaware River still has about 15’ to go to reach the top of its banks (at Riegelsville and Belvidere). I don’t expect that to happen unless rainfall amounts exceed what is predicted. Given that this storm will be a spinning nor’easter anything can happen. It’s certain that people will and should be nervous about the flooding potential.
It’s also certain that those of us who love to canoe and kayak will have lots of water for weeks to come.
Stay tuned, I’ll be updating the situation Saturday night or Sunday morning at the latest. In the meantime, visit the DRBC website for flood information.