Feb 19, 2011

Something Ain't Right

Something isn't right with the Mackinaw River water meter I normally watch.  To the point I'm comfortable saying it is just lying to me....straight to my face.

A peak of almost 4000cfs is pretty impressive (I think 400 is about the max for safe wading), but that is where she sat two days ago.  I believed it because we melted off about fifteen inches of snow in a 2-3 day period - that on top of thawing the ground water.

Then the flow started to fall, so I thought maybe an ice dam was to blame.  Today I check and she's all dried up?  Something ain't right.  In fact, it's the only meter around currently registering a drought...

Anyone have an explanation?  It's almost enough to make me drive out there and look.


  1. clif,
    this is armchair hydrology and I am definitely not familiar with your local waters, but there is the potential that the river avulsed (or abandoned the old channel for a new channel) during the high flow event. (NOTE: this is the sexy answer) But the chances of the USGS placing the gage in a location that would be susceptible to channel avulsion is pretty low. They typically place them in "stable" runs with uniform flow (with little to no flow variability and eddying).

    I took a look at the historic low flows at that gage and every other occurrence of low flows occurred during a low-flow season/drought.

    I would venture to guess that there was some sort of mechanical error with the gage.

    How far away are you for the Mackinaw? if you are close, I would go over and check it out, just in case something awesome happened.

  2. follow up - especially if you know where the gage is.

  3. Someone flushed twice in Chicago? Just a guess...

  4. i think howard is on to something. i retract my guesses and fully support the flushing theory

  5. I know where the meter is, and I'm not sure if there is much chance of the main channel moving.

    It's about 30-40 minutes from here one way. Maybe tomorrow I'll go check it out if it's still misbehaving.

  6. I am sure the guage is misbehaving.


  7. Clif,
    I am sure something was dislodged and the gage is simply not working correctly, but the fluvial geomorphologist in me is always hoping for the exciting.


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