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A look at weather extremes and the big-picture climate connections.

Raging Rivers: Track the Aftermath of Irene

Irene’s rains may have subsided, but she has left no shortage of water in her wake.

As predicted by many forecasters, inland flooding has become Hurricane Irene's greatest legacy, responsible for the majority of the storm's death toll.

Sept. 1 Update:

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, in the wake of Irene, rivers in ten different states have set all time record high levels. Rivers in Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont all set records. While the waters are no longer rising, many of the rivers are still flooding (such as the Passaic River in New Jersey).

The Schoharie River in upstate New York has seriously damaged the town of Prattsville. The Ottauquechee River in Central Vermont washed out bridges and flooded a propane supplier, carrying tanks of the explosive gas downriver. The pictuaresque towns of Quechee and Woodstock, Vermont sustained millions of dollars in damage. And at least 10 rivers in the Northeast have set all time record high water levels. According to Vermont officials, the flooding in the wake of Irene has been that state's worst since at least 1927. 

The flooding isn't only the result of Irene. The tropical storm storm struck a region that was already waterlogged after record August rains. For example, New York City's John F. Kennedy Airport recorded its wettest day of all-time on August 14, when 7.80 inches fell in 24-hours. Recent studies have found that manmade climate change is increasing the likelihood that such extreme precipitation events will occur, and studies of broad geographical regions have found that extreme precipitation events are becoming more common as the globe warms.

Using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) WaterWatch, we have developed a tool to help you track the nation’s rivers. Each point on the map below represents a gauge where the USGS measures the river level. Click on a state, and then click on a gauge to see a graph of water levels during the past few days, as well as a projection of future water levels (note that the map may take some time to load).

For most of the Northeast, the highest water levels have just passed. However, water is still building downstream in many places, and in areas of New Jersey, for example, it will be slow to recede.

 

 

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