Effects of Tropical Storm Gordon

Photos by Larry Simon – The left-hand pictures look toward the Lazy River Canoe Rental and were taken 22-hours apart. The tall white pole between the trees is a depth gage with its base sitting at 11-feet. The right-hand pictures are of the Laurel Run Reservoir’s spill way just 23-hours apart.

While Elk County was put under “flood imminent” alert with waters rising since Saturday, the remnants of Tropical Storm Gordon fell short in Ridgway. The United States Geological Survey website keeps us up to date on the Clarion River’s water level for our area, with monitoring stations in Johnsonburg and Ridgway.
The current month’s typical water flow rate of the Clarion River at Johnsonburg has been running between 200-300 cubic feet per second, with the depth between 2-2.5 feet. Their record depth was in July, 1942 at 16.70-ft., but the flow rate at that time was not recorded. Otherwise, their record flow rate was Jan. 19, 1996 at 12,800-cf/s.
Ridgway’s current, typical Clarion River water flow rate has been between 275-375-cf/s running a depth of about 3.5-ft. The record depth recorded was May 21, 2014 at 21.9-ft. with the second highest on January 19, 1996 being 20.27-ft. The highest recorded flow rate was July 19, 1942 at 34,000-cf/s.
Some may ask why such differences exist between two towns so close together, and why there are unexpected differences at the same monitoring station.
First, the monitoring differences start in 1953 when the Clarion River was dammed and flow rates are now controlled through regulation and diversion.
The vast difference between Ridgway and Johnsonburg simply come from additional water sources. Between the two, the Clarion River picks up water from Powers Run, Riley Run, Little Mill, Mason and Elk Creeks while Elk Creek itself is fed by seven named runs between St. Mary’s and Ridgway.
The statistics, alarming to many and troublesome to some, fall short of setting any records, even though the increase was so rapid. The two towns peaked between 3-4 p.m. Monday; Ridgway with a depth of 10.06-ft. and a flow rate of 4080-cf/s, while Johnsonburg’s depth maxed at 4.57-ft with their flow rate being 1880-cf/s.
Brace yourselves, though, we have potential coming from the remnants of Hurricane Florence which may hit the Carolinas with a strength approaching Category 5. It reached Category 4 at 5 p.m. Monday, with winds of 140-mph and may be washing over us late in the week.