Hurricanes and tropical storms regularly threaten North Carolina communities with dangerous flooding and storm surge. But a partnership between the National Hurricane Center, North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) and N.C. State could help emergency managers better prepare their communities by identifying the location and severity of storm surge along coastal and inland counties.
“History has shown us which areas are often vulnerable to flooding from tropical storms,” said NCEM Director Mike Sprayberry. “Now, we’re able to use science to more precisely calculate where and how much flooding will inundate our coastal and inland communities which, in turn, will help us better prepare for emergencies.”
Leaders from the three agencies gathered today at the North Carolina Emergency Operation Center to share their findings and demonstrate to local emergency managers and meteorologists the impacts of storm surge in eastern North Carolina.
Jamie Rhome, the leader for the National Hurricane Center’s Storm Surge Unit and an N.C. State alumnus, noted that “the National Weather Service’s new storm surge forecasting capabilities will provide local and state emergency managers with more precise data that they can use to help them determine which areas to evacuate and when.”
Rhome explained that the National Hurricane Center would this year continue testing Storm Surge Watches and Warnings for those areas at risk of “life-threatening flooding” or at least three feet above ground level.
During the past five years, NCEM has used LiDAR technology to collect structural data for nearly every building in the state from homes to hospitals, pharmacies, schools, government buildings, retail stores and more. Having those details for more than 5.2 million buildings statewide – including size, elevation and structural material – enables emergency managers to better predict the vulnerability of communities to floods, earthquakes, wildfires and other hazards.
Now emergency managers can overlay the National Hurricane Center’s new storm surge models with NCEM’s detailed building footprint data to more accurately identify those specific communities that need to be evacuated given the predicted flooding.
“These are powerful new tools that will immediately tell us which specific areas we need to evacuate and when to get everyone out of harm’s way,” said Sprayberry.