Flood Safety



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Why do we have floods?

In the fall, winter and spring, there is a greater potential for flooding because of increased rain and snow, as well as rapid snow melts in the Upper Ohio River basin. Most of this water makes its way into the ground then to our streams and rivers, sometimes very quickly, and causes problems for residents and businesses alike.

What can I do in an emergency?

Many times communities must respond to flash flooding, which occurs mostly in the summer in small water basins after drenching storms. You can check water levels of local streams and rivers at the Corps' RiverGages.com. The district’s Emergency Management Office often assists communities during these and other flood emergencies and can provide sandbags, temporary floodwalls and technical assistance. To obtain these services, community officials must contact their county emergency officials who in turn will contact us. 

What does Pittsburgh District do about flooding?

In the late summer, the district prepares for this type of flooding by lowering the water levels at our 16 reservoirs so we can store extra runoff. We also minimize the amount of water being released downstream. These actions can dramatically decrease the water levels of major rivers and tributaries, but it does not guarantee an area will not flood.

We don’t do it alone.

Our Water Management Section continually coordinates with the National Weather Service (NWS) to determine if storms are forecasted anywhere within our district. We also work with the U.S. Geological Service, which maintains gauging equipment throughout the District that reads and transmits water level and flow data. The experts in our water management branch have real-time access to this data and pair it with updates from the NWS, so they can adjust the amounts of water being released downstream.

It’s not just reservoirs.

There are many district streams and rivers which are not controlled by reservoirs. Communities within small water basins with active streams and rivers rely on levees, channels and flood walls to reduce the amount of flood waters impacting private and public properties. The district inspects these projects on a continual basis to ensure the structures can provide communities with the maximum amount of flood damage reduction. Communities, in turn, must continually maintain their flood structures to keep the intended level of protection.

I thought lock and dams already did that.

Some people believe the district’s 23 locks and dams on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers play a role in flood reduction, but that is a misconception. The locks and dams pass water that comes down the river, so during high flows they will potentially flood and be temporarily out of commission.

What's the payoff?

The district 's 42 local flood-protection projects have returned more than $20 in flood damages prevented for every $1 invested, and regional sources estimate the district’s flood-control reservoirs and local flood-protection projects combined prevented more than $12.6 billion of damages since construction.

Always remember…

It is best to know where your property lies in the FEMA region and if necessary have flood insurance. Visit www.Floodsmart.gov to check your flood risk.

Contact Us

Floodplain Management Services Program Coordinator 


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