The Science of Flooding

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After measuring more than 3” of rain over the last seven days at the Rochester Airport, there is more rain on the way. We know area creeks and streams are running high and will likely go higher through the end of the week, but have you ever wondered how much water some of our local tributaries can hold before flooding becomes a concern?

Here are some of the flood stages and water flows that can cause flooding problems.

On the Black Creek in Churchville, the flood stage is six feet. At that level, the creek will carry downstream 1,400 cubic feet of water per second.

On the Oatka Creek, the flood stage is also six feet and carries 2,100 cubic feet of water per second at that level.

Flood stage and flow for the Tonawanda Creek in Batavia are nine feet or 3,300 cubic feet per second, respectively.

The mighty Genesee River in Rochester reaches flood stage at 15 feet with a flow around 20,500 cubic feet per second.

By definition, flood stage is the point at which a body of water's surface has risen to a sufficient level to cause sufficient inundation of areas that are not normally covered by water, causing an inconvenience or a threat to life and/or property.

If we look at the largest tributary in the Rochester area, the Genesee River had its greatest historical crest on March 18, 1865 when it reached a major flood stage at over 25 feet. Fortunately, the Mt. Morris Dam, located about 60 miles south of Rochester, has been a big factor in reducing flooding for over 60 years. It can be argued that the building of the dam has been one of the greatest pieces of infrastructures ever completed in the Rochester area. Just with the flooding from Hurricane Agnes in 1972, the dam prevented over $200 million dollars in damage. The dam will be put to the test again over the next few days.

If you would like to monitor local stream levels click here.

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