Old Dominion University researchers developing new flooding alert system for drivers

Posted at 1:12 PM, Dec 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 07:26:55-05

NORFOLK, Va. - Tidal flooding is often a huge problem after heavy rains in downtown Norfolk.

"Unfortunately, current flooding is only going to increase, according to projections, mostly due to sea level rise and climate change," said Mecit Cetin, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Old Dominion University.

Being that Hampton Roads is literally surrounded by water, Cetin and Khan Iftekharuddin, professor and associate dean of ODU's Batten College of Engineering and Technology, decided to put their heads together to try to come up with a flood warning system.

"You would get a notification on your smartphone that there is a potential problem ahead of you," Iftekharuddin said.

The idea is pretty simple. The prototype the researchers create would use traffic cameras from the City of Norfolk and VDOT to alert drivers of flooded roadways and lanes or hazardous conditions in real time.

"This could be shared through the public with different means, like Waze, Google Maps and TV channels," Cetin said.

The app would also use reference points at intersections, like fire hydrants or curb height, to alert drivers to how deep the floodwaters are.

"We will also use technology that will scan roadway surfaces and produce digital elevation maps of roadways," Cetin said.

The research for the prototype will take place over a three-year period, made possible by a $1.5 million grant awarded by the National Sciences Foundation.

The app will be a first-of-its-kind way to alert you of the dreaded nuisance flooding in our area.

"It's not just a nuisance, but it becomes a matter of life and death," Iftekharuddin said.