White Oak Bayou's new flood alert system warns people in real time

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor
Brandon Martin

White Oak Bayou is notoriously one of the most flood-prone bodies of water in the Houston area, and has been a headache for residents during major rain events.

HOUSTON - White Oak Bayou is known as one of the most flood-prone bodies of water in the Houston area and has been a headache for residents during major rain events.

Now those flood issues could get some reprieve, thanks to researchers from Rice University.

According to a news release, Phil Bedient and Jamie Padgett have created a new flood alert system for the bayou that will monitor it and give people real-time information about the water levels.

The new system is based on the same technology the Severe Storm Prediction, Education and Evacuation from Disasters Center, or SSPEED, Center uses to monitor Brays Bayou and alert the Texas Medical Center of flooding in the area.

According to the release, the system relies on “real-time, radar-based rainfall estimates as rain is falling across a watershed."

"It converts that to accurate rainfall on the ground and then it takes that rainfall and basically displays the amount of water coming across the watershed as a function of time, as the storm moves through," Bedient said.

The system will take in new radar data every five minutes. It will then generate a predictive flood map that will update every 15 minutes and is color-coded to indicate areas and travel routes most likely to flood.

“Not only does the flood plain map have the capability of zooming into certain hot spots and major transportation routes that have repeatedly suffered flooding in the past, but it also demonstrates the flood risks at selected critical transportation locations across White Oak Bayou,” Bedient said.

He and Padgett said they hope to get more funding to expand the project and create a tool that can let people know if they can get to and from hospitals, shelters and other critical facilities.

Future projects include Greens Bayou and Cypress Creek. The alert system is available online at fas-wob.org.

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