CI-FLOW Program Targets Flooding

New technologies and techniques for accurate and timely identification of inland and coastal floods and flash floods are being evaluated and tested through the Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning (CI-FLOW) project, a research and demonstration program focused on the Tar-Pamlico basin of North Carolina. NSSL was one of the pioneer CI-FLOW partners in 2000, along with National Sea Grant College Program, University of Oklahoma, North Carolina State University, and the North and South Carolina Sea Grant programs.

CI-FLOW is taking a three-pronged approach towards providing fundamental data to inland and coastal ecosystem assessment, management, and hazard mitigation:

Measure and monitor: A CI-FLOW multi-sensor Quantitative Precipitation Estimation (QPE) will incorporate information gathered from the multiple radars, rain gauges, satellites, numerical weather models, and lightning detection networks monitoring the basin to provide a continuous assessment of precipitation falling onto the watershed.

Model and modify: Water quantity and quality will be monitored and predicted using an ensemble of high-resolution hydrologic and hydraulic models that will create unique streamflow simulations dependent on channel characteristics, soil type, the slope of the land and vegetation patterns. These simulations will be input into CI-FLOW water quality models and allow forecasters to adjust their forecasts based on all the possible solutions regarding timing and amount of river discharge for multiple forecast points in the basin.

Manage and mitigate: CI-FLOW research will also include storm surge forecasts, inundation estimates, and fresh water streamflow flood predictions. Ensembles of storm surge models, currently operating in Carolina academic institutions and at the NOAA Tropical Prediction Center and NWS Southeast River Forecast Center, will be coupled with the ensemble of water quantity and quality models to improve forecasts for the area. This information will be critical in supporting decision-making to protect life and property.

Partners: The project is ongoing, and now includes other NOAA groups operating programs in the Carolinas – local National Weather Service Offices, the NWS Office of Hydrologic Development, the National Environmental Satellite Data and Information Service, and the Coastal Services Center as well as the Department of the Interior.

Background: Flash flooding is the number one hazardous weather-related killer in the U.S. Devastating flooding in the Carolinas claimed 51 lives and left thousands homeless following Hurricane/Tropical Storm Dennis and Hurricane Floyd in September, 1999. In response to these catastrophic events, the Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning (CI-FLOW) Project was launched to reduce loss of life and property from hydrologic hazards in the Carolinas and across the nation.

Significance: The integrated and interdisciplinary CI-FLOW research programs combining coastal storm effects of heavy rainfall, storm surge, and subsequent river conditions are critical to reducing the number of fatalities due to freshwater flooding, the leading cause of storm related deaths.

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