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Sensors will soon be put on roadways throughout Hampton Roads to measure flooding

Date: Wednesday, November 24, 2021
Source: By Katherine Hafner, The Virginian-Pilot
Sensors will soon be put on roadways throughout Hampton Roads to measure flooding

Hampton Roads officials know anecdotally which roadways in their cities flood regularly: They get calls from residents of certain neighborhoods or encounter trouble spots on their way to particular destinations.

But there’s no central database that houses such information, said Whitney Katchmark, principal water resources engineer with the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. A new pilot program will change that.

The commission, a regional organization that represents 17 local governments, plans to place 20 sensors on roadways during the next few months to measure the amount and timing of flooding. It would eventually feed that information into navigation apps including Waze in real-time.

To start, though, leaders need to “confirm whether or not water is on a road” at any given time, Katchmark said.

The concept has been floated for a while. But it got a jumpstart after the Norfolk-Virginia Beach Joint Land Use Study finished in 2019.

The study, an effort between the cities and Navy installations, mentioned a need for consistent data on road flooding. The Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation, a group under the Department of Defense, gave the project a nearly $200,000 grant this summer.

Staff from local cities have identified about 200 spots. The first 20 will test which sensors work best and how. Contractor Xylem is developing and installing them.

Katchmark said there are two main models — neither of which will be noticeable to drivers.

One style is attached to a road sign or traffic pole and beams radar below to measure the water. The other, called a pressure transducer, converts pressure from the water into an electrical signal. The sensor would lay in a catch basin planted near the roadside.

Many of the sensors will be located near or on the way to military installations because of the DOD funding. Others will be along commuting corridors and flooding hotspots, such as Olney Road and Boush Street in Norfolk.

The 20 sites are five in Norfolk; four each in Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Chesapeake; and one each in Hampton, Poquoson and Newport News.

The concept is not entirely new to Hampton Roads. A company called Green Stream put flooding sensors on some streets in southern Virginia Beach and in other states a few years ago.

Real-time flooding alerts for drivers? ODU researchers are using machine learning to make it happen »

Many cities also have sensors on bridges above waterways, Katchmark said. They don’t measure the amount of water, but rather alert officials to when water has risen beyond a certain threshold.

The program would be the first regional effort to get comprehensive data.

Eventually, she said, the goal is to team with navigational apps including Waze or Google Maps. In the meantime, the group plans to develop a central database and folks can figure out how best to use it, including analysts with Old Dominion University and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

View the Full Article: https://www.pilotonline.com/news/environment/vp-nw-road-flood-sensors-20211124-wd7lj2id55bfdcwswdlq3xyoue-story.html