NOAA 2003-R226
Contact: Curtis Carey
NOAA News Releases 2003
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With the Northeast drought from last year a distant memory, Winter 2003 has raised the flood potential for parts of the region, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service (NOAA Weather Service). NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

According to flood potential summaries issued by the NOAA Weather Service Eastern Region forecast offices, significant accumulations of snow and thick river ice have created an above-normal threat for flooding from northwest Pennsylvania to central Maine. “People in these areas should have a heightened awareness for the chance of flooding this season,” said Dean Gulezian NOAA Weather Service Eastern Region director.

Snow depths in the Catskills, the Mohawk River Valley and portions of the Green and White Mountain Ranges are as high as 3 feet. Snow depths of 4 feet can be found in the Adirondacks and the Tug Hill Plateau.

“The amount of water locked up in the snowpack is very impressive in east central and northern New York,” explained Peter Gabrielsen, chief NOAA Weather Service Eastern Region Hydrologic Services Division.

Recent ground and aerial snow surveys performed by the NOAA Weather Service National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center, and other cooperating agencies have found that snow in the Catskills contained 4 to 8 inches of water, and 6 to 12 inches of water were stored in the western Adirondacks and the Tug Hill Plateau.

“Below normal temperatures have also created extensive river ice conditions that extend all the way to the coast,” Gabrielsen said. The dramatic accumulation of ice on most rivers occurred in a relatively short amount of time. River ice 1 to 3 feet thick can be found in Maine, while ice thicknesses of 1 to 2 feet are common in northern and central New England.

There are numerous ice jams in place and there have been some instances of ice jam flooding following a brief warmup in early February. “With more ice formation likely over the next few weeks, we are really setting the stage for a potentially active ice jam season. While not an immediate problem because of the cold temperatures, the river ice conditions will be closely monitored as the winter winds down,” said Gabrielsen.

“Keep in mind that historically in the Northeast, the most devastating winter river floods have been associated with a combination of heavy rainfall, rapid snow melt, and/or ice jams,” Gabrielsen noted. None of these conditions, however, are expected in the next two weeks.

The NOAA Weather Service River Forecast Centers and weather forecast offices monitor and forecast flood potential throughout the year. As a result of special emphasis placed on late winter and spring conditions, NOAA Weather Service provides its National Hydrologic Assessment through the Internet.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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