Technology could give early warning of floods
Researchers at the University of Texas and IBM have devised a system that could provide up to one week’s warning of a flood.
For homeowners, business owners and renters, that advanced warning could result in more time to prepare for a flood — and, ultimately, in fewer flood insurance claims.
|Ben Hodges, associate professor of engineering at the University of Texas.|
Most homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Across the country, more than 5.5 million people have flood insurance policies through the National Flood Insurance Program, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The average flood insurance policy costs about $600 a year.
The National Flood Insurance Program paid $709 million in flood insurance claims to homeowners, business owners and renters in 2010.
Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, according to FEMA. However, the University of Texas says, traditional flood-prediction methods have focused only on the main branches of the largest rivers — overlooking extensive tributary networks where flooding actually starts, and where flash floods threaten lives and property.
Researchers from the University of Texas’ Cockrell School of Engineering and IBM have applied advanced analytics to forecast the Guadalupe River’s behavior at more than 100 times the normal prediction speed. The Guadalupe River runs 230 miles and has more than 9,000 miles of tributaries in Texas.
IBM’s new flood-prediction technology can simulate tens of thousands of river branches at a time and even could forecast the behavior of millions of branches simultaneously.
“Combining IBM’s complex … modeling with our research into river physics, we’ve developed new ways to look at an old problem,” Ben Hodges, an associate professor at the University of Texas, says in a news release.