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Flooding is a common and serious problem in our nation’s waterways. Flood stage is reached when the water level in a stream overflows its banks. Floodplains are popular sites for development, with nice water views, but are best left for playgrounds, golf courses, and the like. Have you ever heard someone say that a flood was a 1-in-100-year flood? Does that mean that a flood of similar magnitude will occur every 100 years? No, it only means that, on average, we can expect a flood of this size or greater to occur within a 100-year period. One cannot predict that it will occur in a particular year, only that each year has a 1 in 100 chance of having a flood of that magnitude. It also does not mean that only 1 flood of that size can occur within 100 years.
In order to better understand stream behavior, the U.S. Geological Survey has installed thousands of stream gauges throughout the country, locations with a permanent water level indicator and recorder. Data from these stations can be used to make flood frequency curves, which are useful in making flood control decisions. In western Georgia, a dramatic flood event occurred in September 2009 that resulted in 11 fatalities, over $200 million in property damage, and closed Interstate 20 for a day. Rain fell from September 16-22, with a particularly intense period on September 20th. Use information below from a stream gauge located on Sweetwater Creek near Austell, Georgia, to create a flood frequency graph.