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Kavan checking river
Kyle Kavan works on a bridge near Ashland, measuring the flow, depth and speed of the water in the river.

NBC grad measures the flow of flood

Mary Le Arneal
Published 4/17/19

While many of us were watching the flood waters approach, one, North Bend Central grad Kyle Kavan was measuring the water and keeping us informed. Kavan is a hydrologic technician with the U.S. Geological Survey. He is a 2015 graduate of NBC and a 2018 graduate from University of Nebraska – Lincoln with a degree in hydrology. He interned with the USGS from June to December 2018 and was hired on full-time after graduation.

A hydrologic technician measures discharge on rivers. In other words, how much water is coming down the river at any given time. Using a Doppler current profiler, the technicians measure the velocity or speed of the flow and depth of the river. Usually they measure a river every six weeks, but during the flood they were checking the rivers every day. There are also continuous data collecting sensors on the river that keep track of the stream stage height every 15 minutes. The manual measurements are done every six weeks to ensure that the sensors are calibrated correctly.

Kavan worked with another hydrologic technician pulling a small orange boat with instruments onboard along the water under a bridge. The recent flooding has not been without casualty as one of the instruments got tied up on debris and was lost.

“I was at the gage on the Platte River by North Bend on March 14,” Kavan said. “Our gage house had been knocked over by ice the night before, so our office didn’t have any data coming in. We set up a rapid deployment gage with a radar which enabled our office to monitor the stage of the river. I returned on Friday, March 15, with another coworker to try measuring the Platte. Upon our arrival, we saw the water had gotten nearly halfway to Morse Bluff. Taking a measurement there would have been highly risky, as we would have needed to wade to the bridge. So, the only thing we did there was get pictures to send on to the National Weather Service. I was back on March 18 to get a measurement of the recession. I was really glad to see the river back in its banks.”

The data is shared by the National Weather Service, letting them know what is happening at the moment and helping it decide if flood warnings need to be issued and make long range predictions.

Kavan got interested in hydrology while working for Steve Dvorak at Dvorak Well during the summer before his sophomore year of college. He was able to switch his major to the water science program at UNL without losing any credits in his previous engineering major.

“We often take water for granted, but look how powerful and important it is,” Kavan said. “The flooding was definitely the most interesting thing to happen so far, but walking around on iced-over rivers was pretty cool. I hope I don’t see that much ‘excitement’ for the rest of my career, because I saw a lot of destruction.”

 

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