Research + Application + Relationships: A Suite of GIS River Flooding Enhancement Support Services
Jared Allen, NOAA/NWS - Austin/San Antonio, TX WFO, NewBraunfels, TX
Aaron Treadway, NOAA/NWS Austin-San Antonio, TX WFO
John Sullivan, NOAA/NWS - Austin/San Antonio, TX WFO
George Strebel, Williamson County GIS Manager
Matt Porcher, City of Austin - Flood Early Warning System (FEWS)

Since 2010, multiple record and major river flash flooding episodes have occurred across South-Central Texas, resulting in over $300 million in damages and at least 47 direct fatalities. Specifically, four significant flood episodes in 2010, 2013, and 2015 account for a majority of the fatalities and losses, which occurred along the dense infrastructure and populous corridor from Bexar County (San Antonio) to Travis and Williamson Counties (Austin and Round Rock). To better identify the vulnerable infrastructure for flood-risk assessment and aid emergency manager planning and response, a GIS river flood service enhancement product suite has been developed using NSSL FLASH data, the Flood Estimate Simulation Model (FESM), and water inundation depth using the Height Above Nearest Drainage (HAND) methodology. This geospatially-rich data was placed in an innovative online prototype GIS application called the Flood Situational Awareness for Emergency Response [SAF(ER)] Viewer. Using this protected viewer, emergency managers can plan in advance, conduct training, and also use in real-time to respond with greater efficiency and awareness. In addition, this viewer has been used to highlight at-risk flooding locations by sharing spatial map graphics directly to social media outlets that has greatly enhanced messaging during flood episodes.


In-depth focus groups and direct one-on-one GIS methodology outreach testing with emergency managers and their GIS staff has resulted in more engagement, sharing of data, and ultimately better communication during impactful weather events. The continual interaction between the NWS Austin/San Antonio WFO, local emergency managers, and the Austin Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) group has led to deeper alliances, understanding of roles, and relationships. This presentation and poster will highlight the research into the GIS river flooding product suite, the resulting operational applications, and the enhanced relationships with our deep core partners.