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A high water staff gage was installed on August 27, 2010 at Sweetwater Creek near Austell, Georgia. This location had some of the worst flooding in September 2009. The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) automated stream gage malfunctioned as it was covered with flood water. Ultimately, a record flood crest of 30.8 feet was determined during a high water mark survey. The installation of the staff gage was implementing one of the “lessons learned” from a greater than 500 year flood event (1 in > 500 chance). It was concluded an alternative way to receive stage height data was needed during major floods.
Kent Frantz, Senior Service Hydrologist, and Kevin Simmons, Electronics Technician, with the National Weather Service in Peachtree City, Georgia surveyed the Classic Paintball playing field on Blairs Bridge Road adjacent to Sweetwater Creek. In collaboration with the owners, Ron Maxwell and Randall Maxwell, two staff gages were mounted on utility poles ranging from 18 to 31 feet. If the USGS stream gage ever malfunctions again during a major flood, the owner or a Douglas County official can send hourly manual readings to the NWS to help update the forecast and flood warning. This is a simple solution to a complex problem. More high water staff gages are planned to be installed in the future.