Wednesday, May 12, 2010

2010: A remarkably stormy year?

We’ve already experienced an unusually prolific series of nor’easters during the late winter and early spring. Some were in the form of snowstorms while others brought minor flooding to a few creeks within the Delaware River Basin (most notably the Rancocas, which has quite a few intrepid floodplain dwellers along its banks).

The Delaware River itself did not reach flood stage.

Rapidly rising temps in the Gulf of Mexico and a collapsing El Nino are said to increase the potential for several hurricanes this season, or so says AccuWeather (they compared 2010 conditions to the 1998 and 2005 seasons).

Their article goes on to remind us how hurricanes can “cause major disruption to both oil and gas production.” Pffffffft!

How strange that they would say this and never mention the catastrophic oil disaster occurring right now in the Gulf of Mexico -- what will happen if there is an early hurricane in the Gulf?

Nothing good, that’s for sure. The oil slick is growing and moving.

Speaking of oil and hurricanes: In 1972 Hurricane Agnes brought the flood of record for the Schuylkill River (not so for the Delaware). The flood caused the greatest inland oil spill in history. Six million gallons of USED oil washed out of a series of nasty open air storage pits along the river, below Reading, PA. All the people and businesses downstream that were flooded had to deal with oil in addition to the usual silt and raw sewage mixture that is left behind by receding floodwaters.

Back then rivers were catching fire and raw sewage and industrial discharges ran untreated into rivers, lakes and estuaries. Now the Gulf of Mexico is catching fire and thousands of miles of coastline and our greatest fishery are at risk.

These days the Delaware River is running about 1000 cfs below normal at Belvidere. Most larger tributaries like the Lehigh River and Tohickon are running lower than normal, although the Musconetcong River is slightly above and holding its own. Nobody knows what kind of summer we’ll have, weather wise.

We do know that flooding is an important, desirable and inevitable part of the life of a river, and this is especially true for a free-flowing river like the Delaware.

Some people believe we've already reached our quota of Delaware River floods for the 21st century -- that's doubtful, but may we be spared for at least a few more years!

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