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Water Gauge to Return
Gone in 2018, back in 2020
January 30, 2020

O
riental has been missing its water gauge. Once stationed at Lou Mac Park pier, both it and the pier were swept away in 2018 with Hurricane Florence. In April, 2019 the pier was restored. In 2020, the water gauge will return.

The First Gauge
In 2011, after Hurricane Irene flooded Oriental and other coastal towns, the NC Department of Emergency Management determined they needed to collect data on weather and water levels. In 2012, the department installed water gauges at strategic points along the coast.

Water Gauge Returns
The transmitter at Lou Mac Park in 2012, just after the first installation.

In Oriental, that data collector was a ‘multi-sensor gauge’ installed in two parts by – and on – the Lou Mac Park Pier. One part of the sensor ran down the pier, into the water, ‘sensing’ the weight of the rising and falling water above it. Back on land was the satellite transmitter, standing just beyond the pier, sending hourly data back to the Emergency Management Office in Raleigh (and on to the National Weather Service). Water gauges were installed at Cedar Island, Ocracoke, among many other eastern North Carolina locations.

Water Gauge Returns
There were two lines at the end of the pier: a water hose for the pier fishermen, and the line for the pressure transducer to measure the weight of the water.

The solar powered transmitter was installed at a height a foot above the flood of record high water mark in Lou Mark Park, 9 ft from Hurricane Irene, in an attempt to keep it above flood waters and working through future storms.

Indeed, the transmitter was never damaged. But the underwater sensor (mounted on the pier) was.

In 2018, Hurricane Florence’s flood waters hit one inch above Irene’s. The difference was the wave action; the force of the wind and waves not only flooded Oriental, but were strong enough to take out structures, move asphalt from South Ave, and demolish Lou Mac Pier. The water gauge was gone.

Water Gauge Returns
Oriental’s water level gauge, when working, resembles the water level graph from Pungo River at Belhaven.

In a conversation with David Herlong of the Flood Warning Program at the NC Department of Safety after Hurricane Florence, he said the gauge would be returned after the repair of Lou Mac Park pier; it was simply the best location for the gauge.

Completed in April of 2019, the pier waited for a gauge. Government bureaucracy took over, delaying the installation. The project finally went to bid early this year.

A New Kind of Gauge
Herlong spoke with TownDock.net recently and said the replacement gauge will be different. “The new gauges we’ve been installing in the last couple of years are radar sensors, and they look down on the water.”

This could be good news for the longevity of the new sensor; “With anything under the water you have a potential issue with biofouling.” In other words, barnacles and other marine growth can inhibit (or stop) the performance of the underwater sensor.

The new sensor, Herlong says, will need a bracket built out from the pier, and at a height above record flood water level. “That water level,” he said, “based on the most recent storm, is the bottom of the [satellite transmitter] hardware box.”

The bid process will take time, says Herlong. But if all goes well, the new gauge could be installed on the pier by March or April of this year.

Water Gauge Returns
Lou Mac Park pier today. The satellite transmitter waits for a gauge.

Towndock.net provides water gauge data for locations throughout eastern North Carolina. Here is a list:
Trent River At Pollocksville
Atlantic Coast at Oregon Inlet
Pamlico Sound at Ocracoke
Pungo River at Belhaven
Pamlico River at Washington
Beaufort Marine Lab
Atlantic Coast at Johnny Mercer Pier at Wrightsville Beach
Cape Fear River at Wilmington
Neuse River at Goldsboro
Neuse River at Kinston
Tar River At Greenville

These water level gauges will soon be repaired:
Neuse River at Oriental
Pamlico Sound at Cedar Island

Related Links
Oriental Gets Storm Surge Gauge
Sunrise at Lou Mac Park’s Broken Pier
Lou Mac Park Pier Repairs

Posted Thursday January 30, 2020 by Allison DeWeese


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