COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A bright, sunny 70 degree January day means Bryce McClenney’s work outside the office is enjoyable. He is spending time walking back and forth on a Department of Transportation bridge along Highway 130 near Freeland, guiding a tethered boat across the Waccamaw River with a rope in one hand and computer in the other.
As a Hydrologic Technician with the United States Geological Survey, McClenney is gathering data to measure how much water is flowing at this spot on the river, where the USGS also has a gage to monitor the river’s level. McClenney will note today’s level, which is 11.64 feet, along with his data on streamflow.
The agency records and updates that information in rivers, streams, swamps and other bodies of water across North Carolina and the United States. Forecasters use McClenney’s information to help protect families and properties during hurricanes and other weather events.
“Knowing the volume of water, and how fast that water is moving past a given point, is what’s important,” said Jeanne Robbins, the Assistant Director for Data at the USGS South Atlantic Water Science Center. “It’s that information the National Weather Service uses to actually develop river forecasts and flood forecasts. We have to be out here during an event like (Hurricane) Matthew, making those streamflow measurements.”
Simply put, if the Waccamaw River is rising at this site in Columbus County, forecasters can use streamflow data to project when levels will rise at other locations along the river in North and South Carolina.
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