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Leveraging Technology for Prior Alerts on Catastrophic Flooding
With hundreds dead and millions left homeless or their property enormously damaged, devastating floods have gutted many parts of the globe. The fury of nature may seem impenetrable, but can technology at least help them better to cope? Wild hurricanes and record rains have hit many countries and regions around the world, including Bangladesh, India, the Caribbean, China and Texas in the United States. According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, flooding affects 96.9 million people worldwide every year on average and causes $13.7 billion in damage. This summer was one of the weakest in many parts of the North-East. Continuous studies have shown that extreme rainstorms are becoming more common and thus pose a new challenge to old, outdated stormwater systems in large and small cities. Most stormwater systems in the nation simply cannot cope with the increased rainfall, and it gets worse as urban development increases.
This is why new companies turn to the technologies in the cloud to find ways to manage what comes out of the sky instead of looking for answers on the ground. A four-year-old company, Opti, based in Boston, installs underground intelligent water management systems connecting to the cloud technology and tracking the weather. The systems control water from and into urban lakes, retention ponds, tanks, pipes, cisterns, and even wetlands built. The water in the lake is retained by a large panel that ensures that the level is maintained at a certain elevation. A valve is connected to the cloud infrastructure via a nearby control box at the bottom. The current system watches every second of the climate. When the cloud says a storm comes, the valve unlocks to drain the lake and quickly give way to more rainwater.
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This type of modeling helps authorities to plan flood defenses more effectively, insurers to risk prices more accurately, and emergency services to improve their response to protect better. The “digital terrain models” of Ambiental, based on laser technology and other data from Lidar (light distance and range) map how water flows through urban and rural landscapes. Of course, even the best radars can't see the mountains or the oceans where hurricanes are forming. For these situations, forecasters rely on satellites to provide broader data to complement localized radar information. NOAA’s weather satellites provide more than 90 percent of the day-to-day and long-range forecast data and are critical in delivering multiple days’ advance alerts of severe weather potential.