Wapsi Crested in Independence Much Lower Than Predicted -- What Happened?

By Kaj O'Mara, KCRG-TV9 Meteorologist

The Wapsipinicon River flows past the Wapsipinicon Feed Mill and Dam, flooding the lower level of the mill, on Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Independence. (Liz Martin/KCRG-TV9)

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By Richard Pratt

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa -- The Wapsipinicon River crested in Independence late Wednesday night at just 13.4 feet, well below the previous predicted crest of 15 feet.

Projections Tuesday had the river cresting at up to 24 feet. So why was the crest so much lower? Here's an explanation from KCRG-TV9 meteorologist Kaj O'Mara, as posted on Facebook:

"This is an update for Independence, and an small explanation of what has occurred in the area. Part of this issue is the need for more river gauges....thankfully, none of the river gauges in our region are being removed or turned off per a USGS statement.

"One must remember, the Wapsi basin has only 3 reliable gauges from Tripoli to DeWitt - that's way too little for how many cities are along this river. Also...there are no gauges on any of the creeks that run into the Wapsi either. A real lack of data, especially during flash flooding.

"The thinking is, about half of the flash flood waters dumped into the Wapsi south of the Independence area per an NWS statement. When somebody tells you the river gauges are not needed, tell them this information is critical. More data = better forecasts.

"River data is very sparse. This is like forecasting the weather with only 2 temperatures in the viewing area...real tough. The NWS Hydrologists are some of the best around - the Independence situation was a rare miss for them. They are usually very close. We work hand in hand with them all the time.

"This being said, the NWS is still thinking major flooding is likely downstream of Independence, with most of the cities being impacted. Anamosa is already at major stage, and still rising. Hopefully a Central City measurement can be done soon to see what the level is there (no auto gauge there)."

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