NC Officials Can Now Predict When A Flood is On the Way

North Carolina has a new and sophisticated way of knowing when floods are coming

July 20, 2018 

2017 was a soggy year

It may blend together as a soggy, storm filled blur in people’s minds, but 2017 was a year filled with several major storms in that sent rivers across North Carolina overflowing. In one of the worst cases, a rainfall of five-to-eight inches across the Piedmont region in late April sent floodwaters racing down the Neuse River.

North Carolina Emergency Management warned community leaders along the Neuse what day and time the river would crest and just how high water levels would rise. How could state officials be so precise in their warnings? It’s because of a statewide network of flood gauges called FIMAN; the Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network.

Statewide system of stream gauges help determine when a flood is on the way

There are 560 strategically positioned rain and stream gauges around the state that measure rainfall and water levels, providing real-time data to warn first responders and residents who live and work near flood-prone areas. FIMAN can show precisely which buildings and home will flood when local rivers and streams reach certain flood levels.

That data is used to create forecasts, issue alerts and convey the anticipated flood impact to buildings and infrastructure. FIMAN was used extensively during Hurricane Mathew. 13 more gauges are being added to the system in 2018.

“The new gauges will help communities be more aware and prepared for flooding and will allow for better warnings when floods are coming,” said State Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “FIMAN is a powerful tool that helps us accurately define what areas will be affected by flood waters, so emergency managers and local officials can take the appropriate action to keep people safe.”

The data collected by North Carolina Emergency Management is provided to federal agencies and is available through NOAA and the National Weather Service. The flood data is also available in real time through the ReadyNC mobile app, which was developed by North Carolina Emergency Management. App users can click on Flood Gauges to check the current status of sounds, creeks and rivers.

—Frank Graff 

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on Sci Tech Now North Carolina, a weekly science series that airs Tuesdays on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!