Beyond the Forecast: The "Flood Path Project"



Posted on November 12, 2009 at 8:30 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 11 at 4:41 PM

Determining when and where a flood may strike can be difficult. But the US Geological Survey is working on a new technology that could make the task much more accurate and easier for the public to recognize the danger spots.

Flood waters come within 15 feet of Bethany Coulic's coffee shop when the valley floods. The business narrowly escapes the rising water.

During last season's flood her apartment complex was a different story.

"I was living at an apartment complex here in town and our entire parking lot flooded and I was out for a couple of days," she said.

Neighbors here on the river know the water can rise high and it can rise fast, but some new visual mapping technology will warn them well ahead of time when it's time to leave.

Joseph Jones is part of a team at the US geological survey testing a new way to forecast flooding.

It's a way to pinpoint your house, the flood path, and the expected depth, all with the click of a mouse.

The "Flood Path Project" uses the Snoqualmie River Valley as the test area. It won't be ready for use until next year, but we got a sneak peak.

"You can pick out individual facilities, whether it's your house, fire station or access road,' said Jones.

ESRI mapping technology is paired with the most current data and forecasts from the National Weather Service's River Forecast Center.

"Flooding is the worst natural hazard in the United States, by far most hazardous in terms of damage and lives lost," said Jones. "Sometimes it's hard to convince people to evacuate emergency managers want them to get out of harm's way and if you can show them a map that shows the flood will be 10 feet, not 2 feet they can convince people to evacuate."

Jones says it won't be the be-all and end all of knowing when to evacuate. If you get the order to evacuate, make sure you listen.
But the ability to see the latest forecast for your exact location is all in an effort to avoid disaster.

The technology should be available by next year for the Snoqualmie River.  The hope is to eventually incorporate more rivers into the project.