Many areas in and around Austin, Texas flooded in October 2013. There were several deaths, damage to hundreds of homes and almost $30 million in damage. While Austin is a forward-looking city and local officials are often praised by the area’s diverse citizens, something went wrong. First responders reacted slowly and picked up heavy criticism. Could problems with flood prediction be the causes?
The same slow response could happen in California, but one academic is working to make sure it doesn’t.
Flood prediction systems in the United States are mostly based on watching large rivers and responding to rainfall patterns, and these systems often don’t provide much data on smaller streams and other bodies of water that can cause devastation in communities.
Using a grant from the National Science Foundation, hydrologist and civil engineer David Maidment from the University of Texas developed NFIE – the National Flood Interoperability Experiment. This collaboration between the National Weather Service, the government, commercial partners and the academic community is aimed at predicting flooding with advanced technology and developing a suite of ways to deal with it.
In late March, a first-ever water summit was held at the White House and stressed the importance of collaboration and the use of the creative strategies in solving water challenges of many kinds that face the nation.
Using computing power from the Texas Advanced Computing Center or TACC, Maidment’s system was put in place to bring together data on rainfall pattern as well as rivers, streams and creeks around the country in an effort to better forecast flooding on a continuous basis.
Without TACC’s computing power, calculations and predictions would be too slow and probably could not be scaled up to include the whole nation. Researchers were allocated time on Stampede, the most powerful supercomputer available at TACC as well as support from the center’s staff.
Soon, the computational power meant that calculations were improved in performance by more than 10,000 times, leading to the ability to predict flooding more quickly than ever imagined.
Now, Maidment is working with first responders to make sure the information that comes from his project is actually put to good use. People like emergency response managers, fire and police chiefs, rescuers and others need access to real data they can use to make informed decisions – rather than deciding based on hunches and a partial picture of what’s happening around them.
Not long ago, nobody knew that quick and accurate flood forecasting was possible. Now, accurate predictions are possible in minutes, and governmental officials at all levels are starting to listen.
Because California is particularly prone to flooding in some areas, it is especially important that California’s officials take note of real-time flood forecasting capabilities and take action based on the information that is now becoming available to them from this new project.
As a flood restoration and disaster response company, we’re on the first lines of cleaning up the damaged homes and properties and shattered lives left behind by water traveling where it hasn’t been predicted to travel. And as the climate evolves, the problem here in California is only getting worse.
We applaud the efforts of Maidment and others who are working to get people and possessions out of the way of fast-moving and quick-rising water so that loss of life and damage to property can be reduced.
We’ve seen too much flood damage and water damage and look forward to a day when real-time flood forecasting can make a real difference for people who live or have property in flood-prone areas.
If you are impacted by flooding, however, we at Orange Restoration San Diego are here for you – (619) 376-6838.