The timely warning of a flood is crucial to the protection of lives and property. One has only to recall the floods of August 2, 1973, September 16 and 17, 1999, and April 16, 2007, in Somerset County, New Jersey, in which lives were lost and major property damage occurred, to realize how costly, especially in terms of human life, an unexpected flood can be. Accurate forecasts and warnings cannot be made, however, without detailed information about precipitation and streamflow in the drainage basin.
Since the mid 1960's, the National Weather Service (NWS) has been able to forecast flooding on larger streams in Somerset County, such as the Raritan and Millstone Rivers. Flooding on smaller streams in urban areas was more difficult to predict. In response to this problem the NWS, in cooperation with the Green Brook Flood Control Commission, installed a precipitation gage in North Plainfield, and two flash-flood alarms, one on Green Brook at Seeley Mills and one on Stony Brook at Watchung, in the early 1970's.
In 1978, New Jersey's first countywide flood-warning system was installed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Somerset County. This system consisted of a network of eight stage and discharge gages equipped with precipitation gages linked by telephone telemetry and eight auxiliary precipitation gages. The gages were installed throughout the county to collect precipitation and runoff data that could be used to improve flood-monitoring capabilities and flood-frequency estimates.
Recognizing the need for more detailed hydrologic information for Somerset County, the USGS, in cooperation with Somerset County, designed and installed the Somerset County Flood Information System (SCFIS) in 1990. This system is part of a statewide network of stream gages, precipitation gages, weather stations, and tide gages that collect data in real time. The data provided by the SCFIS improve the flood forecasting ability of the NWS and aid Somerset County and municipal agencies in the planning and execution of flood-preparation and emergency-evacuation procedures in the county. This fact sheet describes the SCFIS and identifies its benefits.