A large 'nor'easter' storm on April 15-18, 2007, brought heavy rains to the southern New England region that, coupled with normal seasonal high flows and associated wet soil-moisture conditions, caused extensive flooding in many parts of Massachusetts and neighboring states. To characterize the magnitude of the April 2007 flood, a peak-flow frequency analysis was undertaken at 10 selected streamflow-gaging stations in Massachusetts to determine the magnitude of flood flows at 5-, 10-, 25-, 50-, 100-, 200-, and 500-year return intervals. The magnitude of flood flows at various return intervals were determined from the logarithms of the annual peaks fit to a Pearson Type III probability distribution. Analysis included augmenting the station record with longer-term records from one or more nearby stations to provide a common period of comparison that includes notable floods in 1936, 1938, and 1955.
The April 2007 peak flow was among the highest recorded or estimated since 1936, often ranking between the 3d and 5th highest peak for that period. In general, the peak-flow frequency analysis indicates the April 2007 peak flow has an estimated return interval between 25 and 50 years; at stations in the northeastern and central areas of the state, the storm was less severe resulting in flows with return intervals of about 5 and 10 years, respectively. At Merrimack River at Lowell, the April 2007 peak flow approached a 100-year return interval that was computed from post-flood control records and the 1936 and 1938 peak flows adjusted for flood control.
In general, the magnitude of flood flow for a given return interval computed from the streamflow-gaging station period-of-record was greater than those used to calculate flood profiles in various community flood-insurance studies. In addition, the magnitude of the updated flood flow and current (2008) stage-discharge relation at a given streamflow-gaging station often produced a flood stage that was considerably different than the flood stage indicated in the flood-insurance study flood profile at that station.
Equations for estimating the flow magnitudes for 5-, 10-, 25-, 50-, 100-, 200-, and 500-year floods were developed from the relation of the magnitude of flood flows to drainage area calculated from the six streamflow-gaging stations with the longest unaltered record. These equations produced a more conservative estimate of flood flows (higher discharges) than the existing regional equations for estimating flood flows at ungaged rivers in Massachusetts. Large differences in the magnitude of flood flows for various return intervals determined in this study compared to results from existing regional equations and flood insurance studies indicate a need for updating regional analyses and equations for estimating the expected magnitude of flood flows in Massachusetts.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Characteristics of the April 2007 Flood at 10 Streamflow-Gaging Stations in Massachusetts