Texas Flash Flood Coalition

Flash Flood Situational Awareness Prototype Planning


Tom Donaldson – lets have something for central Texas that will be like what we are doing with Dr McEnery in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  One place for flood data services.

David Walker – we are participating in a collaborative effort between USGS, Corps, NWS for sharing information (IWRSS).  LCRA has been selected as the local partner for this effort.  We want to have a sample project.  We deal with flooding, water quality, and water supply.  We want to have a project in the CAPCOG area as a potential application area.   It’s harder to reach the “at risk” population.  The emergency management community is the group we want to reach because they know how to turn this into “actionable” information.  Share these ideas with Brushy Creek, GBRA, and other agencies that have operational networks.  I don’t know what the architecture looks like.  A browser that pulls together the information is needed. 

Tom Donaldson – the pilot project in North Central Texas is with a specific set of agencies.  Having this TFFC forum to advance this agenda faster than we thought is very good.

Ed Shaefer – First thing we will have to do is to talk to the folks in our management about what this will be.  There is a need.  Where will we get the funds?  How much is it going to cost to put something like this together?  What will each step cost?  GIS community gets various jurisdictions to put money into the pot and collectively they can do things more effectively.  We can work with you to explore this.  I am not saying that we ultimately will be the agency but we will see what we can do.  Let’s talk about it.

Ilyanna Kadich – short term emergency managers are good but long term we need to integrate with Next Generation 911.  I’ll be happy to be the liaison to that world.

Gordon Wells – There are facilities here at UT at the Advanced Computing Center and they have to have very high reliability for supercomputing needs. It is the largest academic supercomputing center in the US. It does have the backup needed to keep the system alive.  There is a large scale data system called Corral – 1200 TB of current storage and there will be additional storage added to that.  We use a lot of this during emergency activations for storing orbital observations from satellite data.  We use web services from Corral for providing data to state officials, such as when we are doing the GPS tracking for buses in evacuations for the state.  We also keep other databases on people who need evacuation help in an emergency.  I had to write a report recently and we had only 38 mins of down time over the past several years.  It’s not perfect but it has more redundancy built into it than most systems accessible to civilians.  Massive amounts of data that need to be accessed.  Jay Boisseau, Tomislav Urban and others at TACC can help with this.  We are in conducting ADCIRC model runs for coastal storm surge and this is used operationally for the state’s operations system.  This was used for the Bolivar Peninsula during Hurricane Ike.  ADCIRC is so much higher resolution than SLOSH and gives better information for evacuations.   ADCIRC is now run here for all the Gulf Coast (Clint Dawson’s group supports this).  We are computing the vulnerability of Texas Coast.  It will take another year or year and a half to get finished.  A lot of the hurricane preparedness work is being done.

Paul Yura – I have been very happy to see how this meeting is going.  Jarred’s contribution is really good.  If we don’t include the emergency management in the solution, we miss out.  He needs one map where everything is in one place.  In the future he wants to see the flood inundation map that can show who’s getting flooded.   The Bull Creek modeling is impressive.  How to connect this with FEWS?  I am hoping we can do something with CAPCOG.

Ilyanna Kadich – you are looking at the entire CAPCOG GIS team right here (two of us!).  Map data for City of Austin doesn’t extend out to all of the CAPCOG area.  We don’t create data.  We make it all regional.  We have to work with what the region can support.  Will it work in Llano County? 

Eddie O’Connor – I really don’t have too much to add because I’ve only been at CAPCOG for 8 days!

Bryan Reese – it was interesting to hear the Williamson County person speak about what his needs. I have some reservations about warehouses – we need base data sets.  If you worry about budgets, make sure the base data doesn’t get neglected.  The Weather Service meteorologist is a person and we need to hear from.

Ilyanna Kadich – there is a cost behind the data and behind the infrastructure (ArcGIS Server).

Hector Guerrero – the only comment I want to make is that we have two needs – internal GIS Situational Tool for decision makers and one for the public.  It seems like those of us who are decision makers know what we want when it comes to a GIS prototype, but we may not fully know what the public wants. We must take the public's feedback into account if we were to develop a GIS app for the public.

Tom Donaldson – NWS has been doing user surveys – Dr Raviano has that information.  We have a lot of data but pictures are better.

Wendy Morgan – watershed protection PIO office for City of Austin. How do we communicate best with the citizens – radio communications. KXAN posted a running list on their web site of what was happening during Hermine.  The water is up to my porch.  Using social media.  Our weather watchers.  There are a lot of people who want to be helpers.  Real world on the ground and participating in the response.

Andy Carter – Geospatial image tagging has come a long way in the last few years.  My phone can geotag images – spatial dataset.  My parents live in Sun City and when it rains on the San Gabriel River but that all gets lost it – it would be a whole lot better if we had records of floods as it happens.  iPhone app that sends picture to a data store.  As it’s being archived on the fly – News 8 can use it too.

Lori Sullivan Clements (QCoherent) – at ESRI Conference I was impressed by the City Source application that is based on ESRI technology – 311 system – they collect this already.  This all kind of fits right in there.  That group would be good to look at.  Like Trapster.  Their goal is to feed it back to the City Managers.  I think it’s a natural fit.  They are related to Facebook.

Gary Scoffield – we have built tools for citizen engagement in ArcGIS.com.  The focus on this has been for potholes – every citizen is a sensor.  Every soldier is a sensor in military.  We built some systems around that.  Every citizen has info – a back-end application is need to focus this. 

Lori Sullivan – use NWS as focus and have “NWS Source”. 

Gary Scoffield – A lot of these things sprung up for the oil spill.  Take a picture on the beach.  Great, but where does that go now?  It takes somebody saying “I’m CAPCOG and I’m making a system that sucks all this in” and have a focused application.

Karl Winter – we in the USGS do flood inundation mapping – pilot real-time flood inundation mapping.  Post flood documentation – during Hermine there was so much data that didn’t get collected.  So many streams did not get data collected – really need collected data at ungaged locations.  Context of flood frequency.  USGS can do this sort of stuff.  Just be quick on the trigger when rain starts to fall. With regard to the web service it would be great to have bar graphs of historical flood peaks so that you can see flooding on the ground compared to historical events – top five highest peaks at this site – stage height and real water surface elevation as well as discharge.  Flood of 98 reached this stage – mentally I can see where this fits.

Jessica Frerich – San Antonio emergency management – right now our public works, fire dept, emergency mgmt getting together with SARA. My focus is on education.  I go to schools and teach kids what to look for during rain events.  I got to community centers and talk to adults about where they can drive.

Harish Sangireddy – I think that we all see the big picture but there are many bricks missing in the big wall we are trying to build up.  There are many things already in place.  We don’t need a new system.  We just need to bring all the existing systems together.

Erika Boghici – we don’t have any analytical services to present information to the general but in order to achieve that we’d have to a lot of historical work.  When will a Ford Explorer get washed off vs a Honda Civic?

John McEnery – just as the CAPCOG data repository has come up today and NCTCOG would be a good analogy to leverage the work we’re doing with Tarrant Regional Water District.   I see an opportunity.

Heidi Carlin – I am with URS now we deal a lot with communication and share information with the public. We really do need to think outside the box.  We think we know what the public wants but we don’t know what they don’t know. 

Robert Wells – I have to throw the disclaimer not all data is good data.  We are talking about a place to go.  Where can people prepare to go if there is an emergency. Type in your address – what do I need to be aware of – in the middle of the night.  Situational awareness when you are buying a house.

Teresa Howard – I’ve got all sorts of ideas.  I looked at everything when I bought my house and my neighbors water still runs onto my property.  I was concerned about getting the message out the cars on the radio – how can we make sure that the integrative people at the media centers to help with information at important intersections.  The other thing that always interests me is cartographic literacy. When we are designing our web interfaces we need to take into account color blindness.  When I used to work at all the TWDB we had to do all our maps in black and white because the head of planning was color blind.   Historical data – it’s that if we have information about the past but that might lead to skepticism that it might happen again the same way but that is rarely true.  Lightning never strikes twice.

Gordon Wells – when you have all these people making citizen observations – this is all going to a very few endpoint outlets (KEYE, News8 Austin).  We have a lot of information coming in from aviation – how is that being handled at the News stations?   After the event for the forensic studies.  An organized library of data with the collaboration of the news services.  Talk with Troy and Maureen.  You aggregate after you’ve got a common technical framework. 

Gary Scoffield – we are working on the community base map – topographic base map – communities submit their data in.  We are also looking to expand that to parcel data.  I know you’re still going to have challenges.  I am working with OK, and LA, how can you stand up web sites or disconnected editing and local people can collect and add information.   With ArcGIS10 web editing and mobile apps we can deploy that out and you can get this information that we are talking about.  Community base map program is something that can be used as a prototype.  We are going to stand up an elevation service.  If we can leverage a broad community of people serving their information and keep the information close to the source.  Every time you print a map or publish a file its out of date.  Closer we can put the servers close to the data sources.  Mash up map services on the fly.  We are updating the community maps monthly.  Our partners need to update their information.  There are no hard and fast standards.  We update and refresh it and we look for people to add in their information (New Braunfels is about ready to put their stuff too).   As they update their data through their normal workflows, they can just push a button and it updates our services too. Operational data needs live servers. You can load a layer package up to ArcGIS.com with symbology and map templates but you will probably see in the future, you’ll be able to publish the data into the cloud.  You don’t have an ArcGIS Server and you just pay a fee to host it in the cloud rather than having your own server.

Jim Rumbo – I am thinking on a lot of different levels today.  To me the product I’ve been thinking about is a “just in time announcement of flood danger to anyone who needs it”.  It’s really a web of complexity because there are disparate information and all kinds of sources.  Can we monetize a product?  What is the veracity of the data that you have?  The 100 year flood has a statistical basis but that may be out the window with the violent weather that we’ve had.  I was actually out collecting water surface profiles during the Memorial Day flood. I can tell you that the same rain falling today would cause a whole lot more flooding.  10” in one day was eye opening at my house.  In San Antonio the areas from 1604 have been subjected to a new urbanization.   I think there are institutional opportunities to create packages valuable to communities – evaluate your house for floods – just in time announcements for floods.  Who are the partners?  City Source.  Social media have issues with veracity.  How do you take pictures that somebody takes to the screen and edit that in a rapid fire way that helps.  How do we educate the public?  One of the biggest things is asking 100 customers what they want.  Does what we are thinking make sense for them?   We need to discover what the concise picture is.  Training and development. Branding of Turn Around Don’t Drown.  Iconography – if rain falls in a certain area – icons which will show for these river crossings that show up when they are flooding. 

Janna Renfro – echo the things that other people have said about the value of bringing people together at this meeting.  One of the biggest lessons that we in the City of Austin learned was how valuable our information is to people like Paul Yura – creating a single hub for all our information.  Google News – Weather news – Tweets too.  Somebody is just pulling data from everybody.  Something that Dean Djokic from ESRI was with us last week said – the public doesn’t care that you have spent this much time doing all this.  The public just wants a product – something that they can act upon.  In the end we can just give a piece of information.

Susan Janek – working for the City of Austin we have paid a lot of money for – we have tried to focus on getting our information out to the public. If there is a move for us to share data or centralize our data but we hope that there is a message from the top down. We are 10,000 folks and we have to get the message from the top down.  IT would be helpful to have all these folks to touch our management.  Get our data outside the firewall.  We go back to our IT folks and can do all this stuff.  We’re all pumped and they go “What?”  Listening to Jarred – listening gosh I wish my bosses could hear this too. 

Roy Sedwick – as co-chair of the coalition I am impressed to get all these idea out on the table.  Being a very non technical person.  But I see us moving in the right direction that the media and local managers can do their job. I am still concerned with John Q. Public.  Are we making the right decisions to save life and property?  Our drivers handbook never had anything at all about flood safety – new edition of drivers handbook – mentions barricade law. Its illegal to litter in Texas, fine $2000.   It’s illegal to drive around a barricade.  We want to look at those ways to reach the public. I think we start at the kid level before they become drivers.  The kids in schools really suck it up.  They understand what will happen – Turn around, don’t drown.  Children draw pictures of children with crosses in their eyes as they float downstream.  Patch program is one of the most requested ones with Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts.  We’ve got a great effort.  I don’t know of anybody that is doing this kind of effort outside of Texas.  Perhaps we can survey through ASFPM.  TX and OK are on the cutting edge.

Matt Porcher – during Hermine the one fatality we had was somebody who drove around the barrier.  We have video of a driver going around our barrier but we got his license plate.  Judges in these cases have a lot of flexibility – give him an opportunity to make a PSA!

Ed Shaefer – as an emergency planner and also being Chairman of Governors First Responder’s Advisory Council. Information is helpful pre-event and post-event.  But during an event, the more information I have the better. Knowing where problems are and where they could be.  And if I’m in the emergency truck and as I’m responding to the scene it helps me to prepare my crew to go in.  And if I know that streamflow is coming I know that a big flow is coming so I know the time I have to do a rescue and I don’t want to park in a location that is going to be flooded.

Bob Huber – sharing iconic information presenting a graphic filters the story for somebody in the public – this is what we think that public around the Highland Lakes – something that gives you a short, succinct message about what is happening.  We should cooperate with UT and NWS.  We keep the information on our own system and share it.  Not a need to really aggregate data in one place. Share services rather than aggregating data.  This becomes a standard way like Google and it establishes a path.  How do people find out about the information and even though they see it they don’t know what it means like what does 100,000 cfs means?

Andy Carter – We are now all creators and consumers of information how do you leverage that.  The web map services need to be as close to the agencies who produce the data.  I would like to know where I can go to find all these web map services. I am in kind of post-event forensic services.  I have to hunt for information.

Chris Riley – there is so much data out there – all these things bring significant good.  We need one place we can go to gather all these data.  We have to go out and look for high water marks.   If we can gather up these data and use it the maps will be more credible.

David Walker – I really enjoyed it.  Listening to people talk about what is on their mind.  Almost like harmonic vibration.  The great end in life is not knowledge but action.  We need to have subcommittees.  What are we going to do.  We need a project manager – (From David Maidment: I think I see him here!!!!  David Walker says YES!)

Bryan Reese – it takes a history to get web services going.  I’ll volunteer to get some history.

Larry Quick – second Friday is the date of our Board meeting.  I want to relay the comments from Jim Lloyd and Jarred Thomas (Williamson County floodplain administrator and emergency operations manager) – they are hungry for product.  They really would like to see a planning process:

(1)   Consumer from government agencies  -- they want it tomorrow.  They are desparate for this kind of information processing

(2)   Information for public – longer term strategy.

We had Hermine after a drought and a lot of trees got carried down that blocked bridge openings.  In Upper Brushy Creek Water District our dams were constructed 50 years ago and so they are our responsibility now into the future.  Impervious cover is changing.  Tropical Storm Hermine showed that our dams functioned as they should but there was still flooding and loss of life.  We are changing our priorities to become an umbrella organization for our watershed and take care of the needs of all the citizens in the various jurisdictions (City of Austin, …)  A region must organize its solution.  CAPCOG, LCRA, host our data. There have to be regional rather local solutions.  See Strategic Plan for Upper Brushy Creek Water Control and Improvement District.

Tim Whiteaker – I like what Gary is saying – every citizen is a sensor.  We need to have somebody to show how to create web services.  Organizations turn on services in the cloud.  Template for server in the cloud for observations data.

Ok, we’re done!

Jack Kayser 

Fellow Texas Flash Flood Coalition Members,


On Monday, Dec. 13th, there was a USGS webinar presentation that I attended at the Austin USGS office. 


The presentation discussed the concept of using a web portal to provide river flood maps that are linked to real time gage data.  The inundation maps at present are based on previous flood studies.  A future objective will be to integrate dynamic flood model results which are computed in real time.


The USGS web page that contains the national map portal can be found at: (look at the Lake County flood in Illinois)




The presentation is available in PDF form at: 




The inundation map portal is a good step toward creating a flood situational awareness tool.  We will be able to use this type of tool for prediction, management and response.




Jack Kayser P.E., Ph.D., CFM

TxDOT - Austin District - Hydraulics Team