Flood Watch XI: Reader question, Povodi Morava director fired

In the comments, reader Thayer asks:

Please if possible in such short time to keep apprised- before sunrise Friday 30 March- how goes waters and flood stages for city of Prague? Leaving Salzburg tomorrow – should I get waders? Is city moving to higher ground?

Sorry to respond to this late. Prague is expected to have its culmination (high water) either today or tomorrow. Aside from localized flooding in low-lying suburban areas such as Zbraslav and Podbaba, we haven’t seen any damage to Prague. The city’s new aluminum flood walls are in place and it isn’t even clear if they’ll be needed.

As long as all the dams upstream hold, and as long as there are no major miscalculations on the part of Povodi Vltavy, the company charged with operating the dams and waterways on the Vltava and its tributaries, Prague should be OK.

In Moravia, Povodi Morava’s (the company responsible for management of the Morava Basin) director was fired today for failing to coordinate between water officials, local authorities and emergency teams, especially in the hard-hit Southern Moravian town of Znojmo, where some officials believe Povodi Morava’s failure to drain the Vranova dam in time to allow its reservoir to fill with floodwater compounded the city’s current situation.

Confusion, or ‘the fog of war’ in emergencies is common, as was the case in FEMA’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and it certainly seems to have made a bad situation along the Dyje worse. For example, Znojmo officials complained that they didn’t have timely and accurate information from their Austrian counterparts upstream on the Dyje. And, Znojmo officials charge, Povodi Morava representatives didn’t even attend the city’s flood team meetings.

To return to Thayer’s question on how all this affects Prague, well there are a couple of ways. There are a number of dams on the Vltava above Prague. The largest of these are Orlík and Slapy. Povodi Vltavy has said their strategy would be to use these dams to limit the impact on Prague; they have probably been letting out water from these dams for some time in anticipation of winter runoff.

Povodi Vltavy spokesman Karel Břežina said that the situation at Orlik was promising, and that if the levels of both the Sazava and Berounka continue to decline, they will not have to let more water out (which would cause flooding in Prague). He said that much will depend on the weather over the next couple of days. (9:12 today).

But the question will be whether the combination of warm weather, large flows and rain on upstream snowpack will overwhelm Povodi Vltavy’s strategy. So far, according to Povodi Vltavy’s flow map, many sites are reporting declining levels (hover your mouse over the green, yellow and red dots to see the water level trends), which is good news.

Povodi Vltavy’s director for the lower Vltava region, which includes Prague, said the Vltava in Prague is unlikely to reach 1,530 cubic meters per second, which would put it at Stage 3 (11:21 today).

On the bus to work this morning I looked out at the Vltava, and while it looked high and menacing, it still was within its banks. We’ll see how that continues, but for now it looks better for Prague.

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