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Health, Science, Environment

A New Tool Can Help Mississippi River Cities Plan For Future Floods

Xan Fredericks of the U.S. Geological Survey demonstrates the new flood preparedness and planning tool. The U.S. Department of the Interior developed the tool in response to this year's floods. Aug 1 2019
Nicolas Telep | St. Louis Public Radio
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Xan Fredericks of the U.S. Geological Survey demonstrates the new flood preparedness and planning tool. The U.S. Department of the Interior developed the tool in response to this year's floods.

A new online data and mapping tool went live today, and its creators hope municipalities in flood-prone areas will use it to plan for and respond to natural disasters.

The Mississippi River Cities and Towns Initiative and the U.S. Department of the Interior created an electronic portal in response to this year’s near-record flooding. The MRCTI Imagery and Information Viewer aggregates maps, weather forecasts and up-to-date data on floods and droughts — all information necessary for cities to better plan for natural disasters.

Scott Morlock, acting U.S. Geological Survey director for the Mid-Continent Region, said the idea for the portal came about when MRCTI asked for satellite imagery after the floods. In addition to the frequently updated satellite imagery, the portal gives users access to live rain and flood forecasts through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as data from USGS stream gauges.

“If cities are going to do a mitigation plan looking at future events, they can use that historical record to see what’s going to happen,” Morlock said.

The new online portal displays weather forecasts and flood warnings. The tool is free to use and accessible to the public. Aug 1 2019
Credit US Geological Survey
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The new online portal displays weather forecasts and flood warnings. The tool is free to use and accessible to the public.

The satellite imagery allows city officials to map areas affected by flooding and identify places historically at risk. It also works as a record for the physical extent of floods, which previously would have to be recorded manually, if it was recorded at all.

Mayor Rick Eberlin of Grafton, Illinois, said the tool is part of the MRCTI’s goal of having a data-driven approach to flood preparedness.

“It is a direct product of the disaster we just sustained, showing that we are not just standing still; we are actively working toward learning and adapting to the challenges that we’re facing,” Eberlin said.

The tool is free to use and publicly accessible. It includes historical water-level data going back as many as 100 years. Additionally, officials can add any available satellite imagery to the interface to compare affected areas side by side.

Follow Nicolas on Twitter: @NDTelep

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