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March 12, 2020


Not knowing where floodwater will flow next is particularly detrimental for first responders who need to gauge the level of flooding for their rescue operations. A new tool can help.

Credit: National Science Foundation/Karson Productions


I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files, from the National Science Foundation.

In weather-related floods and storm surges, more lives could be saved, and emergency responders could more efficiently channel resources, if there were a way to better predict the actual flow of the water. Researchers at Texas A&M have come up with an algorithm to forecast the path -- the spread of severe weather-caused floods.

(Sound effect: rain, thunder) Conventional models predict how physical features will affect the flow of water over the ground. They work well during most rainfall events, (Sound effect: hurricane winds) (Sound effect: shouting slightly over them) but not so much in say, a hurricane! (Sound effect: door slam, wind stops) Since floodwater moves through drainage channels, the researchers incorporated info on them in their algorithm. They also trained it with flood gauge data gathered at numerous points from Hurricane Harvey and the Memorial Day 2015 flooding in Houston.

The team tested its ability to predict drainage system flow patterns from another Houston flood. And it did it with 85 percent accuracy compared with real data collected during the event. The researchers believe their model can be used to forecast which way floodwater will flow in real time, allowing for evacuations or other preemptive measures.

Kinda gives new meaning to 'go with the flow.'

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