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VIDEO: NCDOT Equips State Roads With Cutting-Edge Flood-Warning System

Tue May 31, 2022 - Southeast Edition
North Carolina Department of Transportation

When the next hurricane strikes North Carolina, the state will be armed with an advanced flood-warning system that relies on a network of 400 river and stream gauges.

In making the announcement May 23, the state's Department of Transportation (NCDOT) said on its website that the new system will allow the agency for the first time to analyze, map and communicate in real-time any flood risks to roads, bridges and culverts.

This critical information will be sent to NCDOT maintenance staff responding to flooded roads and washed-out culverts. In addition, the system's reports will help local emergency management officials and the public accessing the department's website for prompt weather-related closures.

"This state-of-the-art warning system our department has created will help us be better prepared for the next major storm," North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette explained in the online news release. "Even though we've had some quiet hurricane seasons recently, we cannot let our guard down."

The last major storm to impact North Carolina's road network was Hurricane Florence in 2018. In 2022, researchers at N.C. State University in Raleigh, and the National Hurricane Center are predicting an above-average hurricane season, which officially begins June 1.

N.C. Equipped With Armada of Flood Gauges

After Florence, the state Legislature gave NCDOT a $2 million grant to develop sophisticated software and install more flood gauges. The system, though, primarily taps into existing gauges operated by other agencies, such as the N.C. Emergency Management and the U.S. Geological Survey and includes an interactive online dashboard and flood mapping based on three-dimensional ground surveys.

One part of the new early flood-warning system covers almost 3,000 mi. of state-maintained roads, mostly east of Interstate 95 where hurricanes tend to have the greatest impact. It also will allow NCDOT to monitor flood conditions for some 15,000 bridges and culverts statewide.

The transportation department's hydraulics unit has been fine-tuning the system and training staff on it with smaller storms over the past year.

In its online statement, NCDOT noted that it has formed a recent partnership with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Renaissance Computing Institute, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence, to receive forecast modeling data on how storm surge may affect the state's road network in coastal areas.

Maintenance Crews at the Ready

Beyond the flood-warning system, NCDOT has been preparing for the hurricane season in other ways as well. For example, the agency has been reviewing procedures and conducting exercises internally and with partner agencies.

Also, some highway divisions in the state's coastal counties have held employee training events this spring to review response and recovery operations. Each of the agency's 14 highway divisions have been taking inventory of supplies, doing maintenance on chainsaws and other equipment, and readying emergency on-call contracts that will supplement what NCDOT employees do in responding to a storm.

Public Preparations

State transportation officials remind Tarheel residents now is the time to prepare supplies for the possibility of an extended power outage, restricted traveling, or the need to be at a shelter. North Carolina Emergency Management also maintains a comprehensive list of items to include in an emergency supply kit.

After a hurricane of tropical storm has passed, people should remember to never drive through flooded waters on roads or around barricades. It only takes one foot of water to sweep a vehicle away, according to NCDOT.

For more preparation tips, including evacuation routes and evacuation zones by coastal county, visit and watch the short video on how to prepare for severe tropical weather.

This stream gauge over the Neuse River on N.C. 42 in Johnston County is one of several the NCDOT will rely on to gather data for a new early food-warning system. (Photo courtesy of NCDOT)

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