Wednesday, June 28, 2006

River Flow Dynamics, Tidal Straits, and Flooding

As those of you who regularly read this blog know, my office windows face the mighty Susquehanna River. When I first began working here, I posted a few times how it appeared that the River was flowing in the wrong direction (North instead of South) or completely stagnant. I found this pretty interesting, but utlimately decided it was just due to the wind; the River always flows North to South.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when, two weekends ago, I stumbled across a river whose flow shifted throughout the course of the day. Twice to be exact. I happened to be staying on Roosevelt Island in New York City, which is situated directly in the middle of the East River. Being the amateur river-flow enthusiast that I am, I noticed that the River was flowing North to South. However, later in the day, I noticed that the river was now flowing South to North. At first I was mystified and confused. Surely this "river" couldn't have switched directions in the middle of the day. I made it a point to note the direction of the river flow each time I looked at it. Sure enough, the East River changed directions again, back to North to South. Turns out, this is because the East River is not actually a river at all, but rather, a tidal strait. Thus, it changes direction twice a day with the tides. Fascinating, huh?

Anyway, back to my local River, the mighty Susquehanna. With the recent rains here on the East Coast, the river is swelling and predicted to flood sometime tonight or tomorrow. Normally, the River is between 4-5 feet deep outside of my window, but this morning, when I arrived at work, the River was at 11 feet. Since I've been here, the level has risen another 4 feet to 15 feet. At 17 feet, the River is at flood stage. The National Weather Service says the River should crest at 20.5 feet. Sadly, I won't be in the office tomorrow to watch the River crest. Oh well. At least I was able to take a walk down to the River at lunch today to get a closer look....

This ends my ramblings on river flows and levels. Enjoy your day.


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