Flood-inundation maps for the lower Pawcatuck River in Westerly, Rhode Island, and Stonington and North Stonington, Connecticut

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5112
Prepared in cooperation with the Town of Westerly, Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development
By:  and 

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Abstract

A series of 11 digital flood-inundation maps was developed for a 5.5-mile reach of the lower Pawcatuck River in Westerly, Rhode Island, and Stonington and North Stonington, Connecticut, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in cooperation with the Town of Westerly, Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Office of Housing and Community Development. The coverage of the maps extends from downstream from the Ashaway River inflow at the State Border between Hopkinton and Westerly, Rhode Island, and North Stonington, Connecticut, to about 500 feet (ft) downstream from the U.S. Route 1/Broad Street bridge on the State border between Westerly, Rhode Island, and Stonington, Connecticut. A one-dimensional step-backwater hydraulic model created and calibrated for an ongoing (2018) Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood-Insurance Study for New London County, Connecticut and Washington County, Rhode Island was updated for this study. The hydraulic model reflects the removal of the White Rock dam during 2015–16, and was calibrated using the stage-discharge relation at the USGS Pawcatuck River at Westerly, Rhode Island, streamgage (01118500) and documented high-water marks from the March 30, 2010, flood, which had a peak flow slightly greater than the estimated 0.2-percent annual exceedance probability floodflow.

The hydraulic model was used to compute water-surface profiles for 11 flood stages at 1-ft intervals referenced to the USGS Pawcatuck River at Westerly, Rhode Island, streamgage (01118500) and ranging from 6.0 ft (3.32 ft, North American Vertical Datum of 1988), which is the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service flood category “action stage,” to 16.0 ft (13.32 ft, North American Vertical Datum of 1988), which is the maximum stage of the stage-discharge relation at the streamgage and exceeds the National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service flood category “major flood stage” of 11.0 ft. The simulated water-surface profiles were combined with a geographic information system digital elevation model derived from light detection and ranging (lidar) data with a 1.0-ft vertical accuracy to create flood-inundation maps. The flood-inundation maps depict estimates of the areal extent and depth of flooding corresponding to 11 selected flood stages at the streamgage. The flood-inundation maps depict only riverine flooding and do not depict any tidal backwater or coastal storm surge that could occur in the lower part of the river reach. The flood-inundation maps can be accessed through the USGS Flood Inundation Mapping Science website at https://water.usgs.gov/osw/flood_inundation. Near-real-time stages and discharges at the Pawcatuck River streamgage can be obtained from the USGS National Water Information System at https://waterdata.usgs.gov/. The National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service provides flood forecast of stage for this site (WSTR1) at https://water.weather.gov/ahps/.

The availability of flood-inundation maps referenced to current and forecasted water levels at the USGS Pawcatuck River at Westerly, Rhode Island streamgage (01118500) can provide emergency management personnel and residents with information that is critical for flood response activities such as evacuations and road closures, and postflood recovery efforts. The flood-inundation maps are nonregulatory but provide Federal, State, and local agencies and the public with estimates of the potential extent of flooding during flood events.

Suggested Citation

Bent, G.C., and Lombard, P.J., 2018, Flood-inundation maps for the lower Pawcatuck River in Westerly, Rhode Island, and Stonington and North Stonington, Connecticut: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5112, 16 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185112.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Creation of Flood-Inundation-Map Library
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Flood-inundation maps for the lower Pawcatuck River in Westerly, Rhode Island, and Stonington and North Stonington, Connecticut
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2018-5112
DOI 10.3133/sir20185112
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New England Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 16 p.; Application Site; Data Release
Country United States
State Connecticut, Rhode Island
City North Stonington, Stonington, Westerly
Other Geospatial Lower Pawcatuck River
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N