BY JOHN HOPKINS
The Cincinnati Enquirer
An electronic river gauge that might have given residents of Falmouth, Ky., earlier warnings of rising water was abandoned in 1994 for budget reasons.
Officials at the Ohio River Forecast Center said the gauges give forecasters a clearer picture of river levels.
''Automated gauges in the upstream area would have given the forecasters here a much better idea of how the river was responding and therefore, hopefully, would have allowed us to understand the situation a little sooner,'' said Ed Yess, a hydrologist with the forecast center.
Falmouth residents were caught off guard by the worst flooding in the city's history after water rapidly rose in the Licking River. It was the hardest-hit community of the Tristate.
The gauge, on the Licking River at McKinneysburg, Ky., was shut down by the U.S. Geological Survey, said Michael Unthank, a hydrologist with the agency in Louisville, after the federal government decreased funding to the Geological Survey.
The gauges cost between $20,000 and $25,000 to install and thousands of dollars annually - depending on the instrumentation - to operate, said Mr. Unthank.
''Cuts had to be made, and that was one that we decided to remove since there is one at Catawba,'' Mr. Unthank said.