There’s a new tool to check the water level at one creek on Mitkof Island south of Petersburg without leaving your home.

The National Weather Service has installed a stream gauge at Falls Creek about 10 miles south of downtown Petersburg. Aaron Jacobs, senior service hydrologist with weather service’s Juneau office, said he helped put in the new equipment on the Falls Creek bridge September 1st.

“It’s a snow depth sensor that’s converted into a water sensor,” Jacobs said. “So it takes the readings of the water surface and bounces it off the water surface and back to us via satellite.”

That equipment replaces a stream gauge that the U.S. Geological Survey had on Falls Creek from 2004 through 2009 but discontinued because of funding. The water level information is now available on the website for the weather service office in Juneau. It can give an idea of the condition of Mitkof Island streams for fishermen or hunters or others in the forest.

A rain swollen Falls Creek in January of 2016

A rain swollen Falls Creek in January of 2016

Along with installing the new gauge, the weather service surveyed the creek and found water levels needed updating for what constitutes the various flood stages. With the relatively dry weather Southeast has experienced so far this fall, Jacobs says the Falls Creek gauge has not recorded any flood stage events yet. “We did have one high water event back in mid-September when we were on the wetter side for a rain forest and it was right around the bank full stage. But we still need to verify some of these values at the higher water levels, so any pictures of impacts or anything from the area is much appreciated.”

Jacobs asks area residents to send him photos of future flooding events. In the future, the weather service hopes to forecast the Falls Creek water level based on expected rainfall. That information is not available yet.

The Falls Creek gauge is the only one for the National Weather Service in the Petersburg area. The U.S.G.S. monitors the water level on the Stikine River. Jacobs says the weather service is thinking about installing more stream monitors in the Petersburg and Wrangell area to fill in some gaps in information in this part of Southeast.