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Open-File Report 2011–1029

Prepared in cooperation with the
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Elevation of the March–April 2010 Flood High Water in Selected River Reaches in Rhode Island

By Phillip J. Zarriello and Gardner C. Bent


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A series of widespread, large, low-pressure systems in southern New England in late February through late March 2010 resulted in record, or near record, rainfall and runoff. The total rainfall in the region during this period ranged from about 19 to 25 inches, which coupled with seasonal low evaporation, resulted in record or near record peak flows at 21 of 25 streamgages in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts. The highest record peaks occurred in late March–early April and generally greatly exceeded the earlier March peaks that were near or exceeded the peak of record for 10 of the 25 streamgages.

Determination of the flood-peak high-water elevation is a critical part of the recovery operations and post-flood analysis for improving future flood-hazard maps and flood-management practices. High-water marks (HWMs) were identified by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from April 2–7, 2010, and by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) from April 3–7, 2010, in five major river basins including the Blackstone, Hunt, Moshassuck, Pawtuxet, and Woonasquatucket along the mainstems and in many tributaries. The USGS identified 276 HWMs at 137 sites. A site may have more than one HWM, typically upstream and downstream of a bridge. The USACE identified 144 HWMs at 127 sites. The HWMs identified by the USGS and USACE covered about 170 river miles, determined from the upstream and downstream HWMs. Elevation of HWMs were later determined to a standard vertical datum (NAVD 88) using the Global Navigation Satellite System and survey-grade Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers along with standard optical surveying equipment.

First posted February 25, 2011

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
Massachusetts-Rhode Island Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
10 Bearfoot Road, Northborough, MA 01532
(508) 490–5000

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Suggested citation:

Zarriello, P.J., and Bent, G.C., 2011, Elevation of the March–April 2010 flood high water in selected river reaches in Rhode Island: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011–1029, 34 p., available at




Purpose and Scope

Study Area

Rainfall and Antecedent Conditions



Setting High-Water Marks

Elevation of High-Water Marks

Summary of High-Water Marks Identified

Potential Use of High-Water Data



References Cited

Appendix 1. High-water marks identified by the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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