RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) —Flood warnings have sounded several times this year.
The alert tones ring out when flooding on roads is expected to be life threatening. Engineers with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, however, say their early flood warning system is capable of predicting and responding to flooding and, potentially, saving lives.
The system includes tools to predict which roads and bridges will flood. It also has stream gauges that track flooding in near-real time.
Kurt Golembesky, an engineer with NCDOT’s hydraulics unit, showed CBS 17 how a stream gauge works.
“It sends a radar beam down to the water and sends it back up again and measures how long it takes. You now have a distance, and it will tell us how high the stream is,” Golembesky explained. “In near-real time we could show that this road is about to flood currently on the upswing of flooding and then being overtopped, and what depth it is as well.”
Data from stream gauges allow the NCDOT to inspect the area and get information to law enforcement, local officials, and drivers more quickly.
Other tools in their arsenal can predict areas most likely to flood and provide forecasts for various streams or rivers.
“Those give us, sort of, eyes into the future,” noted Golembesky.
He said the combination of tools is extremely valuable in predicting and responding to flooding.
“That helps to answer the age-old flood questions of, ‘Where,’ How high?’ and ‘For how long?'” he explained. “Then we get into, ‘What will the potential impacts be?’ as well.”
The advance flood warning system is one of the 12 finalists in the 2023 America’s Transportation Awards competition. One of those awards is based on votes from the public. If you’re interested in voting, you can do so here.
The winner will receive $10,000 to donate to a charity of their choice. A DOT spokesperson said if the NCDOT wins, they plan to choose a charity that helps flood victims across North Carolina.