Hydrologic and Hydraulic Applications in Urban Flooding – A Radar-based Flood Warning System for Houston, Texas

Monday, December 10, 2012 11:00 am

Location: Babbio 203

Dr. Leslie Brunell - [email protected]


Houston has a long history of serious flooding problems. For instance, Houstonians suffered from severe flood inundation during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. Radar-based flood warning systems, provide non-structural tools to provide accurate and timely warnings to the public and private entities are greatly needed for urban areas prone to flash floods. Fortunately, the advent of GIS, radar-based rainfall estimation using NEXRAD, and real-time delivery systems on the internet have allowed flood alert systems to provide important advanced warning of impending flood conditions. Thus, emergency personnel can take proper steps to mitigate against
catastrophic losses.
The Rice University and the Texas Medical Center (TMC) Flood Alert System (FAS) has been providing important warning information for the critical medical facilities for more than 40 events since 1997. The current FAS utilizes NEXRAD Level II radar rainfall data coupled with a real-time hydrologic model (RTHEC-1) to deliver warning information with 2 to 3 hours of lead time and a forecast R2 value of 93% to facility personnel in readily understood format. The latest version – FAS3 has a user-friendly dashboard to provide rainfall maps, Google Maps based inundation maps, hydrologic predictions, and real-time monitoring at the bayou. This presentation will discuss FAS performance during the recent events occurring in 2012. Due to its excellent performance, Texas Medical Center has included FAS3 into their FEMA Success Story as a good example to demonstrate the significant value of the radar-based flood warning systems. Currently, the radar-based flood alert system has been used as a platform to develop for other flood-prone areas in Texas.
Dr. Fang obtained his Ph.D. degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rice University in May of 2007. He has been working on surface water and groundwater problems for over ten years including floodplain studies, hydrologic/hydraulic modeling, water treatment, hydrodynamic simulation, storm water management modeling, and water quality assessment for a number of watersheds and areas in Texas, Florida, Connecticut, California, and Louisiana. Not only has he accomplished many projects in drainage modeling and design, but he has also actively worked in the area of hydrologic/hydraulic analysis for flood prediction and warning in real time. Dr. Fang has enhanced a radar-based flood warning system to achieve more accurate and timely flood forecasts. He recently developed advanced features for a real-time flood alert system for the Texas Medical Center (TMC) based on the use of NEXRAD radar data. This system is currently delivered real-time on a web site that has been tested on major flood events in Houston. This system has been operational during the last 50 storm events and successfully provided precise and timely information to the TMC emergency center. This state-of-the-art flood warning system has been able to successfully reduce millions dollars of damage for local institutions and hospitals in the past 15 years.