Flood Data at Your Fingertips June 2016
A topic that has been fresh on the minds of Texans most of this past year and certainly in recent months. It's a subject that's not only affecting rural areas of the state, but one that has also caused terrible loss and devastation in major metropolitan areas. And floods are not centralized to one part of the state. Small towns. Big cities. They can all find themselves in high water.
To help prepare for and mitigate future flood events, in November 2015, Governor Abbott authorized the transfer of $6.8 million from the Disaster Contingency Account to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) to provide additional technical assistance and outreach for floodplain management and planning and to develop a high-tech network of stream gages.
After receiving the funds, the TWDB immediately began working to put flood information into the hands of Texans. Part of this effort included developing a new website, www.TexasFlood.org, which is another tool for assisting Texans in making sound decisions on what to do before, during, and after a flooding event. Information on assessing your flood risk, flood insurance, making an emergency plan, evacuation tips, the recovery process, and more can be found on the site.
TexasFlood.org also serves as a one-stop shop for statewide stream gage, weather, radar, and precipitation data. The data is featured on an interactive map, making access to data on rising rivers, streams, and reservoirs more easily accessible to everyone. The TWDB will continue to add more data to the website in the coming months.
One of the important data points needed to adequately assess flood dangers is the amount of rain falling. To help fill the gaps on rainfall data, the TWDB and partners developed the TexMesonet, a weather station network of high-quality data to support flood monitoring and flood forecasting efforts by the National Weather Service, regional river authorities, and local emergency responders.
We also made enhancements to the Water Data for Texas website by adding flood stage information to the lake level data. This information allows Texans to quickly locate and access lake levels in their region, a critical resource for monitoring rising water.
Local communities often need early warning tools as well as technology and data—and we are pleased to be able to help fund such projects. This spring, the TWDB issued a Request for Applications for communities to apply for up to $2 million in grants for flood early warning systems, the implementation of local strategies for alerting and responding to floods, or flood protection planning. Applications are due to the TWDB by noon on June 17, 2016, and we hope communities take advantage of this important source of funds!
Another accomplishment at the local level was funding new stream gages in the Wimberley area at locations requested by local authorities and contracting with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), who installed and flood hardened them. In addition, we added five weather stations in the Wimberley area that are reporting data to help track rainfall and soil moisture information.
Aside from these more recent efforts, since 2007 the TWDB has been the state agency to help Texas communities navigate state and federal flood protection grant programs (through our Flood Mitigation Planning Division), implement flood mitigation projects, and meet and maintain eligibility requirements in the National Flood Insurance Program. The TWDB can also provide loans for storm water and non-point source pollution control and flood control.
Combined, these measures are making Texas a safer place. There will always be the risk of flood, but our recent advancements provide more accurate and reliable data to the public, officials, and first responders. Together, we are raising awareness that flood is a subject that should not only be discussed after a tragedy, but also well in advance. It's a serious subject that the TWDB is committed to advancing in order to better prepare our state for whatever conditions come our way.