NWS Tulsa How To Read a Wire-Weight River Gauge


I’m Nicole with the National Weather Service. If you’re a backup river observer, we may be calling you to make a manual reading of how high the river is. So, today I’m going to show you how to do that using a wire weight river gauge Knowing how high the river is is important for the Weather Service, but so is your safety. So, be sure you have on some reflective clothing, use lights on your vehicle or cones to make sure other vehicles know that you’re going to be out on the bridge. Check that the shoulder is wide enough for you to safely cross the bridge. If the weather is bad, wait until it clears up before going out to make your reading. And, if you can’t get to the bridge because there’s water over the roads, don’t cross through the water. You can always call the Weather Service and just let us know that the bridge is inaccessible or maybe try to find another way to get to the bridge. So, the first thing you need to do is find where the gauge is. Typically it’s going to be on the downstream side of the bridge, and it’s going to be where the deepest part of the river is. So, that’s probably going to be close to the middle of the bridge. And, you’re going to want to be looking for a metal box that looks like this one. Don’t forget to bring the key that the Weather Service gave you so you can unlock the gauge. You’re going to have to unlock the gauge. Be sure to take off any sunglasses, check your pockets, make sure there’s nothing that can fall out as you lean over the rail into the river. And using your key, you want to go ahead and unlock the gauge. A lot of times, the gauge lock will have a chain attached to it. This one’s broken off. So make sure you set it somewhere you’re not going to kick it over the edge of the bridge. If it is on the chain, you can just gently lower it down. Make sure it doesn’t snap the chain. And then go ahead and open the cover to expose the gauge. Alright. There are different parts of the gauge. It’s called a wire weight gage. You can see there’s a weight here and it’s attached to a spool of wire. And, there’s a crank on the right hand side that you will use to lower the weight down and to reel it back up. And then on the left hand side you have where we actually make the reading. So the first thing you need to do is push this check bar back out of the way so that there’s nothing below the weight. While holding onto the handle, you need to release the latch here. But definitely hold on because this weight is heavy and it will quickly drop if you do not hold it carefully. Start cranking the weight and make sure you avoid any obstacles in the way. Don’t go too fast because that will cause the weight to start swinging and it can snap the wire. And what you want to do is continue to lower the weight until it touches just the surface of the water. You want to do this kind of quickly once it reaches the surface. You want to make a quick glance at your reading and then start rolling up the wire weight again in case there is any debris during a flood situation that could catch the weight and break it. So after you get the weight to be touching the water surface, pull your latch back up into the wheel here. And, that way, it locks it in place. And then you can come over here and make your reading. So, we can see we are at four feet. And here on the spool, we are at point seven zero. So, you would call the Weather Service and say your reading is 4.70 feet. So as you roll up the weight, you do not need to lift the lever. It will just be fine with it hanging down there. Carefully raise the weight up all the way back. And, make sure that it is secure and put the check bar back in place. Now, if you happen to drop the lock or the weight breaks off of the wire, please make sure you let the Weather Service know so that we can call the appropriate people to come out and fix the gauge. Once you’re done making your reading, make sure you close the cover on the gauge, put the lock back on, and when you get back to your vehicle, call the Weather Service with your reading. Thanks for watching, and I hope you learned how to read a wire weight gauge.

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