After Floyd, better preparation, technology maps flood paths

Posted October 10, 2016
Updated October 11, 2016

— After the devastation of Hurricane Floyd in 1999, North Carolina leaders made changes to the systems of emergency preparation and response that could pay off this week in saved lives.

The key investment came in the Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network, software which offers both real-time and predictive flood mapping so authorities can get people to safe ground faster.

The system factors in topography, river bed depth and flow, soil and solid surfaces, than adds on predicted rainfall totals to show what areas will flood.

It works in real time, too. As floodwaters swallowed up neighborhoods in Lumberton Monday afternoon, emergency leaders knew which buildings were damaged and how much repairs might cost.

"Based on each of those buildings and the first-floor elevation and what the water level is, we know exactly what buildings are flooding right now," said John Dorman, director of the North Carolina Floodplain Mapping Program.

"945 buildings are flooding at the current time and the cost to repair that is $29.2 million. So, we have a very, very accurate understanding of what's going on."

Prediction models help downstream communities evacuate before the water rises. When the Neuse River surges, the state can better predict what's going to happen downstream in Smithfield and Kinston.

"I can tell you right now, Kinston has not had the flooding that it will have. That's going to happen on the 14th (Friday)," Dorman said.

The evacuation ordered Sunday night in Princeville was based on the network's models.

Tarboro/Princeville inundation forecast

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  • Steve Hutton Oct 11, 2016
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    So what happened in Lumberton? Why were 1500 people not notified to evacuate in advance?