Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2011 Vol. 58 No. 12


Texas Flash Flood Coalition

The Texas Flash Flood Coalition reports that flood modeling and real-time visualization technologies are rapidly advancing, with the potential to make low-water crossing and flash flood warnings available as web and cell phone applications. IBM and the University of Texas at Austin recently announced a new approach for real-time river modeling that captures flows from minor tributaries all the way down to the main channel. The Texas Flash Flood Coalition and its members have been the "go to" group for the Austin-based research team during this project.

The research goals were focused by the interaction between research scientists and the people with their feet on the ground for flash flood response. This new river network model could provide emergency response managers real-time data on water levels in all their streams and low water crossings - not just those with gauges or with someone standing nearby. The research team created a large-scale proof-of-concept model for the entire Guadalupe River Basin and an urban flood application for a section of Waller Creek in Austin, which is tied to stream gauges and NEXRAD rainfall data.

The urban model required only a few weeks to construct because the research team was able to leverage data the City of Austin previously collected for engineering river studies using the HEC-RAS model. With the recent drought there isn't much water in Waller Creek, so the research team tested the urban model using data from storms in 2007 and 2010.

“Combining IBM’s complex system modeling with our research into river physics, we’ve developed new ways to look at an old problem,” said Ben Hodges, Associate Professor at UT Austin’s Center for Research in Water Resources. “Unlike previous methods, the IBM approach scales-up for massive networks and has the potential to simulate millions of river miles at once. With the use of river sensors integrated into web-based information systems, we can take this model even further.”

Each year the Texas Flash Flood Coalition meets to discuss the latest trends surrounding flash flood research and reporting capabilities, and new data on educational and outreach initiatives. The group is comprised of representatives of local and state government agencies, water and utility governmental organizations, meteorologists, media and other partner agencies. More information about the Coalition and its partner agencies can be found on its Web site: http://texasflashflood.org/

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