Implementation of a River-Level Forecast Site in the Suwannee River Basin, Florida
Mirti, Thomas H.
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River level forecasting has been undertaken by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the Suwannee River basin since the late 1970’s. Among others, forecast sites were established in the lower reach of the Santa Fe River, a major tributary to the Suwannee River. Since that time, extensive riverbank and floodplain development has occurred upstream of those forecast sites in the Santa Fe River. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, some riverine stretches experienced significant flooding events, which at times were not preceded by adequate warning from the existing flood warning network. In response to a request from affected residents, the NWS and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD) cooperated in establishing the first new forecast site in the basin in over 20 years. Data review and analysis, field surveys, and public meetings were conducted to identify the optimal gage location and establish the appropriate action, cautionary, and flood stages. Data analysis showed the existence of two distinct types of flood events in the basin, one inherent to rainfall over the basin and the second due to backwater effects. The Southeast River Forecast Center (SERFC) has incorporated the new forecast site in the National Weather Service River Forecast System (NWSRFS) and it is in the process of redefining the existing setting for the Santa Fe River. The enhancements in the new setting will include the use of dynamic routing to account for the backwater effects in the Santa Fe River due to flooding in the Suwannee River basin.