The Adopt a Gauge Program – Municipalities Gauging Safety

Raleigh

Hundreds of gauges are situated near streams and rivers across North Carolina to provide real-time data on stream elevation, rainfall and weather parameters – and now municipalities can “adopt” these gauges, in similar fashion to the well-known “Adopt-A-Highway program. These gauges, which are operated by N.C. Emergency Management (NCEM), local government agencies, private organizations and the U.S. Geological Survey, all feed information into the Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network (FIMAN). Gauge data is also provided to the National Weather Service to aid in their rain and flood forecasts.

“FIMAN allows emergency managers to gather and distribute data that provides real-time flood inundation maps and alerts that help prevent and reduce the loss of lives and property during a heavy rain event, all of which requires the gauges to be in good working order,” said NCEM Director Mike Sprayberry. “These gauges must be in good working order, and cities and towns across the state have a vested interest in helping to maintain these gauges.”

Gary Thompson, who serves as both the deputy Risk Management chief and the chief of the N.C. Geodetic Survey with NCEM, says that site maintenance is a continual process that includes removal of debris and vegetation, battery replacement, water level gauge calibration and replacement as well as data transmission upgrades and troubleshooting. 

Municipalities who choose to be part of the Adopt a Gauge Program (AaG), which is modeled after the Adopt-A-Highway and Adopt-A-Stream programs, will agree to inspect gauges and report any issues to NCEM. Issues may include damage or debris buildup that might impact their ability to transmit data to FIMAN. Agreements will be customized for each municipality, as some may have a greater capability to perform additional maintenance tasks beyond inspections. Whatever their capacity is, NCEM personnel will meet with staff from the municipality, and visit the gauges they have adopted. NCEM will also provide training on what to check for and maintenance that needs to be performed, such as removing overgrowth that may be impeding the devices’ proper operation.

NCEM is drafting an agreement with the Town of Chapel Hill, which could possibly become the first participant in the AaG program. NCEM is contacting other government agencies to determine their interest. 

“With help from municipalities like the Town of Chapel Hill, it’ll be easier to identify potential problems before they occur, and allow for more efficient preventive maintenance, keeping the number of gauges going offline to a minimum,” Thompson said.

For information about the FIMAN program, or to see the gauge map, visit their website at https://fiman.nc.gov/. You will also find inundation maps there with flooding risk information at selected sites across the state. 

Municipalities interested in participating in the program should email NCEM at AaG@ncdps.org.  

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