North Carolina State University and the National Hurricane Center researchers are predicting this year’s hurricane season, which begins June 1, to be above-average and North Carolina Department of Transportation officials are taking steps to prepare.
The department has a new system that will allow officials, for the first time, to analyze, map and communicate in real time any flood risks to roads, bridges and culverts, the state announced Monday.
The advanced flood-warning system relies on a network of 400 river and stream gauges and will help NCDOT maintenance staff respond to flooded roads and washed-out culverts. The system also will benefit local emergency management officials and the public using the department’s DriveNC.gov website for weather-related closures.
One part of the new early flood-warning system covers almost 3,000 miles of state-maintained roads, mostly east of Interstate 95. The system also will allow NCDOT to monitor flood conditions for around 15,000 bridges and culverts statewide.
“This state-of-the-art warning system our department has created will help us be better prepared for the next major storm,” Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said in a statement. “Even though we’ve had some quiet hurricane seasons recently, we cannot let our guard down.”
Hurricane Florence was the last major storm to impact the state’s road network. After the storm hit in 2018, North Carolina Legislature gave NCDOT a $2 million grant to develop software and install more flood gauges.
The system uses information collected by existing gauges operated by other agencies, such as the North Carolina Emergency Management and the U.S. Geological Survey.
The system includes an interactive online dashboard and flood mapping based on three-dimensional ground surveys. The agency’s Hydraulics Unit has been fine-tuning the system and training staff on it with smaller storms over the past year.
The state agency recently has formed a partnership with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Renaissance Computing Institute and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence to receive forecast modeling data on how storm surge may affect the state’s road network in coastal areas.
NCDOT also has been preparing for the hurricane season by reviewing procedures and conducting exercises internally and with partner agencies.
Some highway divisions with coastal counties held employee training events this spring to review response and recovery operations. All of the agency’s 14 highway divisions have been taking inventory of supplies, doing maintenance on chainsaws and other equipment, and readying emergency on-call contracts that will supplement what NCDOT employees do in responding to a storm.
State transportation officials remind residents that now is the time to prepare supplies for the possibility of an extended power outage, restricted traveling, or the need to be at a shelter. The state Emergency Management maintains a comprehensive list of items to include in an emergency supply kit.
After a storm passes, people should remember to never drive through flooded waters or around barricades. It only takes a foot of water to sweep a vehicle away, officials said.
For more preparation tips, including evacuation routes and evacuation zones by coastal county, visit ReadyNC.org and also watch this short video on how to prepare for severe weather.