Old, Incorrect Data Used In Flood Crest Predictions - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Old, Incorrect Data Used In Flood Crest Predictions

Three weeks after the floods, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation reveals how data used to warn the public were not only outdated, but in some cases, wrong. The investigation uncovered problems in the information that the National Weather Service was given to predict the crest of the Cumberland River.

 

 

On May 2, 2010, the National Weather Service was in a race against time. Homes and businesses along the Cumberland were in danger, and forecasters needed all the information they could get.

 

And they needed information from the Army Corps of Engineers about how much water was being released from the Old Hickory Dam.

 

"We're taking that latest information from the Corps, factoring it into our models," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Larry Vannozzi at a news conference last week.

 

The National Weather Service had constant access to rain and river gauges. But the I-Team discovered it didn't even have hourly updates on the dam even as the information on water releases kept changing.

 

The I-Team learned the Corps lost e-mail services on May 2 for 11 hours, between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. The Corps and the National Weather Service had to rely on phone calls. Records show only four phone calls were exchanged that day between the two federal agencies, along with one e-mail early Sunday morning.

 

But on that day, the amount of water released from the dam changed 22 times. The Corps continually let more water out, trying to keep the water from over-topping the dam.

 

An I-Team analysis shows at 1:30 p.m. on May 2, the National Weather Service called the Corps to get the latest data on how much water was being released in order to make its next crest prediction.

 

But after that call ended, the Corps increased the amount of water being released nine additional times, including opening the gates to their maximum level.

 

In the meantime, the National Weather Service kept making predictions, unaware of the increased water releases, until it spoke with the Corps again by phone at 7 that night, 5 1/2 hours after the last call.

 

"If we had information that was, you know, several hours old, or something, that's the information we were working off. We work off the latest information provided by the Army Corps of Engineers," said National Weather Service Hydrologist Jim Nole at last week's joint news conference between the Corps and the National Weather Service.

 

A National Weather Service spokeswoman told the I-Team that during the 7 p.m. call, the Corps told the National Weather Service that the dam would be releasing water at 150,000 cubic feet per second.

 

But the Corps' own records show at that time, it was actually releasing much more water: 211,730 cubic feet per second.

 

The National Weather Service spokeswoman told the I-Team that it gave the best prediction it could, given the information it was given at the time.

 

Despite the lack of timely information and the incorrect data, Corps officials praised the sharing of information at last week's news conference.

 

"Across the board, I think the agencies worked well together, in terms of relaying communications and being as responsible as we possibly could," said Lt. Col. Anthony Mitchell.

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