NCDOT has developed early flood-warning system for roads

RALEIGH, NC (WWAY) — When the next hurricane strikes, the N.C. Department of Transportation will be armed with an advanced floodwarning system that relies on a network of 400 river and stream gauges.

The new system will allow the NCDOT for the first time to analyze, map and communicate in real-time any flood risks to roads, bridges and culverts.

This critical information will go to NCDOT maintenance staff responding to flooded roads and washed-out culverts; and it will benefit local emergency management officials and the public accessing the department’s website for timely weather-related closures.

“This state-of-the-art warning system our department has created will help us be better prepared for the next major storm,” Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said. “Even though we’ve had some quiet hurricane seasons recently, we cannot let our guard down.”

The last major storm to impact the state’s road network was Hurricane Florence in 2018. Researchers at N.C. State University and the National Hurricane Center are predicting an above-average hurricane season, which officially starts June 1.

After Florence, the state Legislature gave the NCDOT a $2 million grant to develop sophisticated software and install more flood gauges. The system, however, mostly taps into existing gauges operated by other agencies, such as the N.C. Emergency Management and the U.S. Geological Survey. The system includes an interactive online dashboard and flood mapping based on three-dimensional ground surveys.

One part of the new early floodwarning system covers almost 3,000 miles of state-maintained roads, mostly east of Interstate 95. The system also will allow NCDOT to monitor flood conditions for some 15,000 bridges and culverts statewide. The agency’s Hydraulics Unit has been fine-tuning the system and training staff on it with smaller storms over the past year.

In addition, the NCDOT has formed a recent partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Renaissance Computing Institute and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence to receive forecast modeling data on how storm surge may affect the state’s road network in coastal areas.

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