Hurricane flood mapping saves lives, estimates damage cost

Posted August 1
Updated August 2

— More than 25 people died in North Carolina from flooding during Hurricane Matthew, but that number could have been much higher.

John Dorman, with the North Carolina Emergency Management, is one person responsible for saving lives. He's been developing the state's flood inundation maps for 16 years.

"We know the elevation of the ground already, based on the topography," he said.

Dorman explained that the Flood Innundation Mapping and Alert Network or FIMAN can show exactly where flooding will happen and how high the water will go.

"We've actually taken imagery and compared where the actual water was standing compared to where the model showed and it's astounding," Dorman said. "You think that a model can't predict reality, but it's really close."

Flood mapping

Emergency managers use the information to evacuate people to safer ground.

In Wayne County, the inundation maps showed that the Neuse River Correctional Facility would go underwater after the storm came through. Emergency managers ordered an evacuation, which ultimately saved lives.

The program also has a scenario mode where people can determine the amount of damage and the estimated cost of repairs at individual houses.

"I think they are the most accurate maps in the United States of America. So in my mind, they are the most accurate maps in the world," said Mike Sprayberry, Director of NC Emergency Management

Emergency managers encourage people to locate their house before a hurricane hits so that they can keep more people safe.

"What's so exciting is that they are going to get more and more accurate as the years go by," Sprayberry said.


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