Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Weather or Not: New Meteorological Programs Wield the Power to Pinpoint Areas at Greatest Risk for Flooding

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Weather or Not: New Meteorological Programs Wield the Power to Pinpoint Areas at Greatest Risk for Flooding

Article excerpt

Tropical Storm Allison slammed into southeast Texas in early June 2001, unleashing nearly 27 inches of rain in less than nine hours in Houston and more than 36 inches of total precipitation during the five days the storm was in the area. Property damage exceeded $5.1 billion with more than 45,000 commercial and residential structures flooded. In some areas, Allison's rainfall exceeded the "500-year storm" level--an event so extraordinary that the probability it would occur in any given year is less than one-quarter of one percent.

Among the most important outcomes of Allison is the development of new flood prediction and protection measures that can safeguard valuable real estate. Most existing prediction tools are based on stream and rainfall gauges and often flooding occurs before data can be obtained and studied. Flood protection for developed urban areas is currently a difficult task because typical response times are one to four hours, leaving little chance to implement safety measures. New systems are making flood prediction more timely and accurate. These tools can economically provide data sooner, allowing property managers more time to respond.

Unmapped Flood Zones

New options and improved use of existing technology are taking the identification of flood-prone areas to a new level. During Tropical Storm Allison, thousands of homes and businesses that were located far from any stream or designated floodplain experienced significant damage. In a city where the storm-sewer systems are designed for a two-year storm (one with a 50-percent chance of being exceeded in any given year), street flooding is a common occurrence. Powerful and affordable computer programs can model both pipe and surface storm water flow, identifying flood-prone regions that are not recognized with the current methods used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to establish floodplain areas.

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Storm Severity Predictions

Taking this to the next level, these systems are being integrated with Next Generation Weather Radar (NEXRAD) technology to use realtime rainfall information to accurately predict water surface levels that will occur hours later. In addition, new storm prediction software is being developed that will calculate rainfall estimates up to an hour in the future, giving even earlier warning of impending flooding. The use of these forecasting and analysis systems eliminates many costly false-alarm closures and keeps facilities functioning at the highest level possible. …

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