Solve the Flash Flood “Over-Alerting” Problem with Clearer Insights
Flash flooding is one of the top weather-related killers in the world. And with so many variables to consider when assessing this risk, alerting at the right time and right place isn’t easy.
Baron developed a newly derived real-time risk dataset that can provide accurate and advanced notice down to a street level where a life-threatening event is likely to occur.
Birmingham, AL is no stranger to flash floods. There were two fatal events in the city only six months apart in 2022. One of them on March 16 turned streets into rivers within minutes across the Five Points district, catching many by surprise.
#Flooding video from Alabama Wednesday. Heavy rainfall swept through the region and prompted a flash flood warning in Birmingham. #ALwx #FlashFlood
Get your forecast here: https://t.co/1zY4CFICnm pic.twitter.com/z4sA92Y1GI
— WeatherNation (@WeatherNation) March 17, 2022
The flooding prompted at least 8 water rescues near the University of Alabama Birmingham (UAB) campus. Community leaders called this rain event “unusual,” as it hit areas that don’t typically have a flooding problem.
Flash flooding kills an estimated 5,000 people globally per year. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the National Weather Service (NWS) have been strengthening forecast guidance on the phenomenon since 2017.
The NWS has had an array of flood warning products for several decades, all with a unique purpose. But during a major widespread rainfall event, the map can get complicated, making it difficult to understand where and when the flooding is truly life-threatening.
In 2019, the NWS even began restricting the use of Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) for flash flooding to “lessen the perception” of over-alerting.
Baron’s new flash flood product makes assessing this risk simple and precise.
The guidance shows the threat of flash flooding over the next two hours with a simple three-tiered risk level: Elevated, high, or very high. The model uses a high-resolution 23-yearlong historical dataset of soil-moisture evolution and runoff, then matches it with recent rainfall rates and short-term modeling to pinpoint where an extreme event is likely to occur.
During the Birmingham event on March 16, Baron’s Flash Flood Risk map showed a “high” chance of flash flooding in the Five Points district 44 minutes before a Flash Flood Warning was issued (2:44 pm CDT) by the National Weather Service. The WEA alert (prompted by an update with “life-threatening” verbiage) reached mobile phone users at 2:54 pm CDT.
Preparing for a sudden weather emergency, such as a flash flood, requires a multi-faceted approach. Baron Weather provides superior data that cuts through the noise when critical decisions must be made quickly.
The new Flash Flood Risk guidance dataset is available to developers in the Baron API or for use by emergency response personnel in the Baron Threat Net web application.