Shockingly, the gauge was only built to register river levels to 38.5. That shortsighted design handicapped emergency officials.
Commissioner Stephen Urban (D-Luzerne County) said the early report provided a false and dangerous sense of hope. The leader remained critical of the United State Geological Survey, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the river gauge at Wilkes-Barre. The instrument is responsible for predicting the river's height for dozens of miles, both north and south of the city. And while the levee system is advertised to protect to a 41 foot crest, this high-water event exceeded that number. But that information wasn't known until hours later, when the river began to retreat.
A representative with USGS, based in the Harrisburg area, said adjusting the river gauge to beyond 38.5 feet was a "high priority." Bob Hainley declined to discuss the details of the USGS' plan or timeline saying Luzerne County commissioners should hear it first.
Commissioners point out it's been two weeks since they sent the USGS letters demanding the gauge be adjusted to 45 feet. Urban said they have yet to hear from the USGS. He sent a follow-up letter Thursday.