River images available again on Internet
The Derrick, 2/20/02 By MICHAEL MOLITORIS
A special thanks goes out to The Derrick for allowing this story to be posted


Real-time images of the Allegheny River and the confluence of the river with Oil Creek are once again available on the Internet.

Crews from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked Tuesday to install two new, shoebox-size cameras on the Veterans Bridge to monitor wintertime conditions at the dicey confluence.

When Oil City's North Side business district has flooded, the backwater flooding traditionally was caused by ice jamming at the confluence, making Oil Creek back up and overflow its banks.

Two cameras originally were installed on the bridge in 2000, but it is believed they were destroyed last May when the bridge was struck by lightning, according to Mark Zaitsoff, a hydraulic engineer with the Corps.

Other projects reportedly delayed the camera replacement, Zaitsoff said. Now, the camera mechanisms will be removed from their protective boxes after March and reinstalled by late November.

In 2000, Zaitsoff said Oil City was chosen to receive the cameras because of its history of ice and flood problems. The cameras snap one picture each during every daylight hour through what is considered the ice season - December through March.

"What we've learned is how the ice develops there," Zaitsoff said. "There's one camera aimed at Oil Creek and another looking downstream toward the Petroleum Street Bridge. We watch the confluence. Through studies in past years, this is the problem area and by watching and knowing what's going on with the creek going out into the river, we can anticipate the problem."

If ice buildup does occur at that spot along the river, Dick Graff, director of Venango County's Emergency Management Agency, told the newspaper in 2000 that having the cameras would save his agency some manpower and more easily be able to monitor the ice situation.

The cameras are two of about 30 the Corps, in conjunction with the Cold Region Resource Lab, have installed across the country to help with research.

Zaitsoff said the camera project gives the lab data and pictures of actual conditions without having to send people out to look at ice in other parts of the country.

The pictures help researchers at the New Hampshire-based lab study the ice jam formation process.

But this year, which the National Weather Service has deemed atypical, there has been no need for the cameras in Oil City.

Though only about six weeks remain in the ice season, Zaitsoff said there is a possibility that some ice buildup could occur, but Bob Reed of the Weather Service thinks it's getting too late in the season for sustained cold periods needed to create substantial ice cover.

"I don't really see any cold spell coming up that would cause any buildup," Reed said. "It's not looking very likely."

And what's been unusual about this year, Reed said, is that the Venango County region has had temperatures well above normal on the average from November through today.

"It's been several degrees above normal, and it hasn't stayed cold enough long enough to really cause any serious ice formation up that way," he said. "We're getting longer days and it's just harder to get the conditions that are really right for ice formation."


Those interested in looking at the Oil City camera images on the Internet can find them at www.crrel.usace.army.mil/ierd/webcams/oilcity