OneRain Supporting Customers Impacted by Hurricane Harvey Storm

OneRain’s Support Team has been on hand assessing the real-time rainfall and hydrologic data and providing assistance to their clients and Emergency Coordinators in Storm Harvey’s path.

 

Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by storm Harvey. The entire OneRain team is focused on doing all we can to help and support our customers in Texas and Louisiana during this devastating event.

Officials from Harris County Flood Control District, San Jacinto River Authority, Trinity River Authority, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, and other agencies in the storm’s path, are relying on the data transmitted from hundreds of gauges that are spread throughout the region. OneRain’s systems gather and provide the continuous real-time data measurements, analysis and reporting of the rainfall, stream flow and water levels in the dams from these gauges, providing critical notifications and information to their Emergency Coordinators and First Responders. The data from these systems are also used by the National Weather Service to assist in the official issuing of flood watches and other warnings to the public.

There are so many hard-working people behind the scenes who have had little or no rest as they keep these systems operating.

As rainfall subsides in the next few days, the ongoing challenge will be knowing where and how all this floodwater will drain and flow after this history-making rainfall and flooding storm event.

 

OneRain and High Sierra Electronics Joint Sponsors of the NHWC 2017 Conference

OneRain Incorporated, in Longmont, Colorado, together with its sister company High Sierra Electronics, Inc. in Grass Valley, California, is proud to sponsor the National Hydrologic Warning Council (NHWC) 2017 biennial training conference and exposition being held in Olympic Valley, California from June 6 to 8, 2017.

2017 Marks the 25th Anniversary of Both Companies

Both companies, established in 1992, joined forces in August of 2016, and are thrilled to share the same 25-years anniversary.

Technical Training Open House and Facility Tour

OneRain and High Sierra Electronics welcome you to join us in celebration of this very special milestone. Coinciding with NHWC 2017 Conference week, we invite you to join us on June 9, 2017 for a special training and open house event.

Thank you to our clients, friends, and colleagues for your support during these past 25 years!  Many of you have been with us from the start. Our journey continues…

 

Celebrating 25 Years 1992-2017

About OneRain Incorporated
Since 1992, OneRain has been providing solutions that optimize water management, heighten regulatory compliance, achieve successful civil works, and save lives. Headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, OneRain’s software and services deliver mission critical information to serve clients responsible for flood early warning, dam safety and reservoir operations, water resources, stormwater and wastewater management. For more information, visit www.onerain.com or call 800-758-RAIN (7246).

About High Sierra Electronics, Incorporated
Established in 1992, High Sierra Electronics, Grass Valley, California, has been designing and manufacturing environmental monitoring systems for the protection of lives and property. High Sierra Electronics’ systems help identify threats posed by the weather, which include flooding, dangerous road conditions, and vulnerable dams and levees. For more information, visit www.highsierraelectronics.com or call 800-275-2080.

Training Open House Event Celebrates 25 Years

Please join us and other leaders, colleagues, and friends in the hydrologic warning community as OneRain and High Sierra Electronics both celebrate 25 years in business at a joint Technical Training and Open House event.

When: Friday, June 9, 2017
Time: 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
What: Four (4) *FREE* Technical Workshops, Facility Tour and Lunch
Where: High Sierra Electronics, Inc., 155 Spring Hill Drive, Grass Valley, CA

Thank you to our clients, friends, and colleagues for your support during these past 25 years!

This event follows the National Hydrologic Warning Council 2017 Conference in Olympic Valley, California. HSE offices are just 60 minutes away from NHWC Conference at Squaw Creek

Make your plans now! We appreciate your response for our planning purposes.

About OneRain Incorporated
Since 1992, OneRain has been providing solutions that optimize water management, heighten regulatory compliance, achieve successful civil works, and save lives. Headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, OneRain’s software and services deliver mission critical information to serve clients responsible for flood early warning, dam safety and reservoir operations, water resources, stormwater and wastewater management. For more information, visit www.onerain.comor call 800-758-RAIN (7246).

About High Sierra Electronics, Incorporated
Established in 1992, High Sierra Electronics, Grass Valley, California, has been designing and manufacturing environmental monitoring systems for the protection of lives and property. High Sierra Electronics’ systems help identify threats posed by the weather, which include flooding, dangerous road conditions, and vulnerable dams and levees. For more information, visitwww.highsierraelectronics.com or call 800-275-2080.

Post Wildfire Flash Flood Warning System

Fire and Water: Hazards Management after Wildfires

Between shifting weather patterns and human activity, severe wildfires are becoming a more frequent occurrence. While the immediate effects of these fires are well known, it is the after effects, including flooding, that need to be closely managed.

Author: Anu Sood 

One such example is the Las Conchas fire in New Mexico. On June 26, 2011, a tree fell on a power line in Santa Fe National Forest, which ignited the parched vegetation. The forest burned at an astounding rate of one acre per second, and by the time it was over, an estimated 156,000 acres of land had been burned. Among the areas burned were parts of Bandelier National Monument, Santa Clara Pueblo and Cochiti Pueblo. At the time, it was the largest recorded wildfire in New Mexico.

The loss of vegetation from the fire was just one of the catastrophic outcomes. With much of the vegetation removed and the ground becoming hydrophobic (or vitrified), intense downpour in the Jemez Mountains in August 2011 led to flash floods. Although newly implemented flood protection had reduced damage to the recently renovated historic visitor center, many park trails had been severely impacted.

“Ground conditions drastically change following wildfires—greatly increasing the potential for life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides during heavy rain.”

The Challenge

Knowing that it could take many years, and possibly decades, for the terrestrial ecosystem to recover, the agency responsible for maintaining the park set about to implement a more effective way to closely monitor the area’s water cycle. They were concerned about heavy rains and rising upstream water levels that could once again cause flash floods or landslides, thereby threatening lives and damaging property and park assets such as the visitor center. “To more closely guard the park against post-wildfire hazards, the local agency was looking for a system that would allow them to receive real-time notifications of rainfall and water level changes in various parts of the park,” said James Logan, CEO of OneRain.

Many of the systems in the market collected data regularly but are only able to send it at specific times or at specific intervals. This did not meet the crucial requirement to receive level information in real-time since water levels can rise very quickly right before a flood.

OneRain’s StormLink® Satellite Telemetry installed in the Cochiti fire burn area in northern New Mexico for flash flood warning. Real-time data is transmitted to OneRain’s secure data storage center for viewing, alarming and monitoring on the Internet via Contrail®

The Solution

OneRain developed and deployed several of their StormLink Monitoring Stations around the Santa Fe National Forest at Bandelier National Monument, Santa Clara Pueblo and the Cochiti Pueblo. Each consisted of either a rainfall gauge or a stream gauge connected to a satellite messaging terminal manufactured by SkyWave Mobile Communications and powered by a 10-watt solar panel.

OneRain’s StormLink solution provided many key functions and benefits for effective flood warnings. Since the system relied on satellite communications to relay data, monitoring stations were set up in mountains, canyons and other remote areas where other services are not available. Data from water gauges can be received by the monitoring software within 20 seconds of being collected and sent. This allows authorities to receive immediate notification when water levels rise rapidly during heavy rains and when data are needed in order to quickly assess risk levels.

OneRain’s Unique StormLink Protocol Guaranteed Timely Data Delivery for Advanced Warning
To ensure that data were received by the flood monitoring software, OneRain implemented a unique StormLink® handshaking protocol between the satellite messaging terminal and their Contrail® monitoring software that guaranteed data delivery. If acknowledgement of data receipt was not received by the satellite messaging terminal, it would resend information.

Finally, OneRain devised the system so that water and weather data could be received, alarm thresholds defined and automated notifications for triggered alarm events delivered to any number of appropriate personnel to warn of possible flood conditions. Alarm notifications could be sent via both email and SMS text messages.

Intense Rainfall Event Puts the Advance Warning System to the Test

The remote monitoring solution’s capability was quickly tested for its effectiveness. On July 25, 2013, rains in the region led to a 17-foot (5.1-meter) high wall of water barreling through a local canyon towards the visitor center. “The real-time water level information allowed the local agencies to mobilize flood protection measures in advance,” said Logan “The early warning ensured that no one was hurt and damage to the visitor center and surrounding areas were minimized.”

For more information about this project

See OneRain Presentation: “Post Wildfire Flash Flood Warning System: A Case Study of Frijoles Canyon

 

About the Author
Original story appeared in WaterWorld Magazine (www.waterworld.com). At the time published, Anu Sood was the Global Channel Marketing Manager at SkyWave Mobile Communications.

About OneRain Incorporated
For more than 20 years, OneRain has been providing private and public sector clients across the United States and around the world with solutions to optimize water management, heighten regulatory compliance, achieve successful civil works, and save lives. OneRain’s innovative products and services serve clients in Flood Early Warning and Emergency Management, Dam Safety and Reservoir Operations, Water Resource Management, Post Wild Fire Mitigation, Urban Pluvial Water Management, and Stormwater and Wastewater Management. For more information, visit www.onerain.com or call 1-800-758-RAIN (7246).

OneRain and High Sierra Electronics Join Forces

Grass Valley, CA (August 11, 2016) – Logan Gayl, Inc., a California company owned by the shareholders of OneRain Inc., a leading software provider for the Flood Warning, Dam Safety, Reservoir Operations, and Hydrology markets, is proud to announce the acquisition of High Sierra Electronics, Inc., a leading provider of environmental monitoring and instrumentation for the Flood Warning, Hydrology and Road Weather markets.

This acquisition combines the strengths of OneRain’s software, High Sierra Electronics’ hardware, and both companies’ services divisions to provide end-to-end-supported software, instrumentation and field services to the hydrology marketplace.

“High Sierra Electronics’ seasoned management team has done a terrific job of building a solid and successful operation that provides high quality products and services to the hydrology market,” said James Logan, OneRain’s CEO. “OneRain and High Sierra Electronics share a passion for serving public safety and public agencies where real-time monitoring of hydrology supports their core mission.”

“We are thrilled about the possibilities this new synergy creates,” said Ilse Gayl, OneRain’s chairman.

“By teaming up, High Sierra Electronics and OneRain will be able to provide technology-leading, high quality solutions for our combined customer base,” said Jim Slouber, VP of Engineering for High Sierra Electronics. “This is the natural evolution of our business to provide more complete solutions for our customers,” said Kathy Slouber, President of High Sierra Electronics.

About OneRain Incorporated
Since 1992, OneRain has been providing solutions that optimize water management, heighten regulatory compliance, achieve successful civil works, and save lives. Headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, OneRain’s software and services deliver mission critical information to serve clients responsible for flood early warning, dam safety and reservoir operations, water resources, stormwater and wastewater management. For more information, visit www.onerain.com or call 800-758-RAIN (7246).

About High Sierra Electronics, Incorporated
Established in 1992, High Sierra Electronics, Grass Valley, California, has been designing and manufacturing environmental monitoring systems for the protection of lives and property. High Sierra Electronics’ systems help identify threats posed by the weather, which include flooding, dangerous road conditions, and vulnerable dams and levees. For more information, visit www.highsierraelectronics.com or call 800-275-2080.

Contact Information

Rosemarie O’Connell
Sales & Marketing
OneRain Incorporated
1531 Skyway Drive, Unit D
Longmont, CO 80504
Phone: 800-758-7246

Sue Swenor
Sales Manager
High Sierra Electronics, Inc.
155 Spring Hill Drive, Suite 106
Grass Valley, CA 95945
Phone: 800-275-2080

https://www.newswire.com/news/onerain-and-high-sierra-electronics-join-f…

Contrail Insight is Changing to “Contrail Analytics”

With the December 2016 Contrail® software release, OneRain is updating the suite of data analysis tools and data mining engines known as “Contrail Insight” to a new menu location and with a new name: “Contrail Analytics“.

The update affects Contrail Base Station and Contrail Server clients.*

Contrail offers two types of reports: On-Demand and Analytics. Making Contrail Analytics available requires a client-based permission. With this new update, the Analytics reports will live alongside the On-Demand reports making your library of reports easier to find and manage in one location: Administration > Reporting > Reports. More about access and new report features will be available in the online Help documentation coming with this release.

The team here at OneRain is always working to improve our user’s experience by creating better workflow, simplifying processes and adding new features and enhancements. Your feedback on Contrail’s features and usability are incredibly important to us so please let us know what you think.

We frequently release new features, improvements and bug fixes. For the latest information about Contrail software updates and releases, visit the Releases page at https://status.onerain.com

*Contrail Analytics is not available with Contrail Shared Web.

About OneRain Incorporated
Since 1992, OneRain has been providing solutions that optimize water management, heighten regulatory compliance, achieve successful civil works, and save lives. Headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, OneRain’s software and services deliver mission critical information to serve clients responsible for flood early warning, dam safety and reservoir operations, water resources, stormwater and wastewater management. For more information, visit www.onerain.com or call 800-758-RAIN (7246).

Why is HTTPS-Secure Important for Contrail?

The Whitehouse mandated HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) connection for Federal publicly-accessible websites back in 2015. The directive instructs Federal agencies with publicly accessible websites to provide service only through a secure HTTPS connection that encrypts nearly all information during communication between the website and user. (See M-5-13 memorandum “Policy to Require Secure Connections across Federal Websites and Web Services“.

Starting in January of 2017, Google Chrome will begin indicating all websites that do not use encryption as “Not Secure”. Other major web browsers (Opera, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Edge) will likely do the same.

Encryption between Browser and Contrail Server

HTTPS-secure provides an encrypted connection between the browser and the Contrail server. This ensures that the data transmitting between your browser and the Contrail server is safe by making sure that unintended users are unable to intercept the traffic. A particular instance in which this type of secure connection is highly important is during username login and password access to the application. If you do not have HTTPS certificates configured, this warning can put off public users from visiting your site, and leave you vulnerable to “Man-In-The-Middle” attacks when visiting your Contrail instance.
All OneRain-hosted Contrail editions are HTTPS secure. For locally installed Contrail Base Stations, a TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) protocol certificate is required to enable encryption and authentication on your site domain and use the HTTPS protocol. OneRain can work with your IT department to implement your agency’s encryption certificates within Contrail ahead of this change. If using or implementing your agency’s certificate is an issue, OneRain can purchase and manage your certificate on your agency’s behalf for a small annual fee.

Starting in January of 2017, Google Chrome will begin indicating all websites that do not use encryption as “Not Secure”. Other major web browsers (Opera, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Edge) will likely do the same. (Learn more here)

 

Why have TLS/SSL Certificates?

A TLS/SSL* certificate is required to enable encryption and authentication on your site domain and use the HTTPS protocol. HTTPS-secure provides an encrypted connection between the browser and the Contrail server. This ensures that the data transmitting between your browser and the Contrail server is safe by making sure that unintended users are unable to intercept the traffic. A particular instance in which this type of secure connection is highly important is during username login and password access to the application. If you do not have HTTPS certificates configured, the “not secure” warning could put off public users from visiting your site, and leave you vulnerable to “Man-In-The-Middle” attacks when visiting your Contrail instance.

All OneRain-hosted editions of Contrail are HTTPS secure

For locally installed Contrail Base Stations, a TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) protocol certificate is required to enable encryption and authentication on your site domain and use the HTTPS protocol. If your on-premise Contrail Base Station site domain is not secure, OneRain can work with your I.T. department to implement your agency’s encryption certificates within Contrail. If using or implementing your agency’s certificate is an issue, OneRain can purchase and manage your certificate on your agency’s behalf for a small annual fee.

*TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) is the de facto standard for encrypted and authenticated communications between clients and servers on the Internet.

 
About OneRain Incorporated
Since 1992, OneRain has been providing solutions that optimize water management, heighten regulatory compliance, achieve successful civil works, and save lives. Headquartered in Longmont, Colorado, OneRain’s software and services deliver mission critical information to serve clients responsible for flood early warning, dam safety and reservoir operations, water resources, stormwater and wastewater management. For more information, visit www.onerain.com or call 800-758-RAIN (7246).

Announcing OneRain ALERT/ALERT2 Field Decoder Solutions for Hydrologic Networks

In the News May 2016: OneRain’s new ALERT/ALERT2 Field Decoder Solutions created quite a stir when introduced at the recent 2016 ALERT Users Group Conference—the year’s largest gathering of flood warning professionals in the U.S. OneRain’s StormLink™ IQ Receiver has the capability to receive and decode signals from 25 MHz to 1750 MHz, which covers the hydrologic radio frequency bands.

Tools for Hydrologic Field Services and Maintenance Support Programs

StormLink® RF Transceiver with ALERT or ALERT2 capability
StormLink RF Transceiver

For those operating hydrology networks, OneRain’s Field Decoder Solutions allow in-the-field analyses of gauge data messages for trouble-shooting, verification, and optimizing gauge network performance for ALERT/ALERT2 flood early warning systems and field instrumentation maintenance operations.

The StormLink IQ Receiver is a simple low cost mobile solution for receiving and decoding field sites. The small USB-type device plugs into a laptop and, with OneRain’s Contrail® Field Decoder Software interface, users can easily change between frequencies and receive and decode ALERT2™ radio signals directly on their laptop.

StormLink® Field IQ Receiver and Software

The company also announced their rugged StormLink RF Receiver—a radio-based ALERT2 receiver with controls that allow users to switch frequencies and receive/decode either ALERT or ALERT2 messages. The StormLink RF Receiver will be upgradable to a 2-way transceiver which will allow it to transmit and receive ALERT or ALERT2 for testing repeaters and two-way sites such as those used by flasher or siren systems.

“Feedback has been very positive”, says James Logan, OneRain’s CEO. “OneRain has made a lot of progress developing and implementing the support for ALERT and ALERT2 with this radio technology. We plan on adding the capability to simultaneously decode multiple frequencies and multiple protocols, so an agency that is going through the transition from ALERT to ALERT2 can see all of their messages as they go through the network.”

Availability
OneRain’s Field Decoder Solutions are available in bundled software and hardware packages.

BIA Safety of Dams Early Warning System

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is responsible for 910 dams on Indian reservations; of which 137 are classified as high- and significant-hazard. Having been built several decades ago, many of the dams are not aging well and pose dam safety risks. BIA is actively modifying some of these dams to an acceptable safety level, however, with limited budgetary funds each year, a number of dams go unmodified until funding becomes available.

As part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Safety of Dams program, BIA built and operates the National Monitoring Center, a 24/7/365-manned emergency operations center in Montana to ensure the safety of downstream communities. The dams are scattered on tribal lands throughout the western U.S.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Dam Safety Program uses OneRain’s Real-time Hazardous Flood Detection Solutions to support their National Monitoring Center.

The National Monitoring Center (NMC) Early Warning System is built upon the integrated real-time monitoring instrumentation, telemetry and centralized enterprise data collection services infrastructure developed by OneRain.

Under contract with the BIA since 2003, OneRain has been working in partnership with the agency’s Safety of Dams program supporting and continually enhancing the Early Warning System (EWS) in all aspects. OneRain and the NMC’s emergency personnel currently monitor more than 2,637 sensors for more than 112 high-hazard dams in real time. Key to the success of the program is knowing how well the instrumentation and sensors are performing at all times. The program includes daily system performance analysis that detects outages automatically. BIA, with OneRain, has an excellent preventive, proactive and routine inspection maintenance schedule in place for the monitoring instrumentation for ensuring that the flood warning network provides accurate, reliable information during a hydrological event.

Several sensors comprise OneRain’s remote dam safety monitoring instrumentation and gauges shown here at Lower Mundo Dam – part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Safety of Dams program.

 

The majority of the dam sites are on tribal lands in extremely remote locations. The Safety of Dams program uses OneRain’s StormLink real-time satellite systems to relay data from sensing sites and from local line-of-sight ALERT/ALERT2 or SCADA systems to OneRain’s data center where its decision-support software, Contrail®, continually collects and monitors rainfall, water level, stage height, flow rate data and more, in real time.

All the data coming in are automatically processed, analyzed and disseminated in real time in Contrail. Alarms events are triggered based on advanced customized rules and the system automatically generates and sends out early warning notifications with Emergency Action Plan (EAP) procedures to alert emergency personnel of possible hazardous and flood-threatening conditions. For example: if the stage height is near a bank full threshold, and it has rained more than 0.5-inches upstream in the last half hour, then an alarm is triggered. The alert notification system supports sending messages to cell phones, email, and text pagers. BIA and NMC staff have 24/7 secure web-based access to the system where they can see up-to-the-minute current conditions on high resolution maps, dashboards, charts, graphs and tables.

With OneRain’s system, the BIA and the NMC know at all times that their dam safety systems are up and running, or that it needs attention.

The National Monitoring Center is the key in providing significantly enhanced public safety to populations downstream from Bureau of Indian Affairs high-risk, significant-hazard dams.

 

#damearlywarningsystem #damsafety #safetyofdams

 

Predicting El Niño’s flood risk: How new warning systems save lives, property

In the news February 2016: “Predicting El Niño’s flood risk: How new warning systems save lives, property”. OneRain’s Contrail® software provides the real-time monitoring and alerting for San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority’s newly launched Flood Early Warning System. Check out this great article by journalist, Lisa Krieger with the Mercury News, focused on how automated remote data systems are helping protect communities in the San Francisco Bay area.

News Source: Lisa Krieger, San Jose Mercury News

Four winters ago, as worried rescuers watched the quickly rising waters of a Peninsula creek and tried to decide whether to alert local residents, they turned to a small green plant for guidance.

“You see that shrub?” one public safety official said. “When it’s under water, we’re going to start evacuating.”

Today, that sentinel shrub has been replaced by a sophisticated network of gauges, sensors and computers that can save lives and property — not only in flood-prone Menlo Park, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, but also in vulnerable South Bay and East Bay communities.

OneRain’s Contrail® software provides the real-time monitoring and alerting for San Francisquito Creek Joint Powers Authority

Counting El Niño’s raindrops in distant mountains, the new flood-prediction systems are for the first time allowing the Bay Area to anticipate disasters, not merely respond to them.

“We can ramp up, adding resources and personnel,” said Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman. “It becomes part of normal planning.”

A revolution in technology allows for the highly automated and near-instantaneous analysis of enormous volumes of digital information about water flow.

It works like this: Separate streams of data — collected from mountain peaks and rushing creeks — are integrated into huge databases. Computers then track rising waters and predict flood risk, based on creekbed capacity and the surrounding landscape.

As waters run high, the computers can issue an electronic flood alert to local residents downstream. For instance, mid-Peninsula residents who are registered to get an alert — by text or email — are kept informed about four different flood-prone locations along San Francisquito Creek. They will be notified nearly two hours in advance of the water overflowing its banks.

“We know what is coming down the system,” said Len Materman of San Francisquito Creek’s Joint Powers Authority, which has a newly expanded system of automated rain and creek gauges perched 2,000 feet above the vulnerable mid-Peninsula cities. “We can give people solid information for decision-making” about such things as when to sandbag, get electronics and antiques off the floor or seek higher ground.

To be sure, even the most high-tech upstream tools can’t predict flooding from surprise local sources, such as a suddenly downed tree or a blocked storm drain.

While we’ve long been able to accurately forecast flooding on major water routes like the Sacramento River, the risk along smaller urban tributaries — prone to flash floods, especially if lined with concrete — has been far tougher to predict.

Flooding is the leading cause of severe weather-related deaths in the U.S., causing 75 to 200 drownings per year. Because cars can be swept away in only 1 to 2 feet of water, about half of the drownings are vehicle-related.

In the last strong El Niño in the winter of 1997-1998, 1,700 homes were flooded on the Peninsula, and some residents had to be evacuated by boat. There also was damage in other Bay Area communities.

But history isn’t much help in predicting future risk because every storm is unique, with different rainfall patterns, experts say.

Steve Fitzgerald, president of the National Hydrologic Warning Council, has witnessed the recent and dramatic expansion of real-time, high-quality hydrologic information.

In 1983, as Hurricane Alicia bore down on his city of Houston, he was frustrated and fatigued by attempts to identify danger. Working 24 hours straight, he used a Wang computer to plot the data delivered by the county’s 12 rain gauges, imperfect devices rigged with weights and cables. Each graph took him 45 minutes to complete. Then, as rains pounded the city, the information quickly became obsolete and needed to be updated.

Now computer analyses of his county’s 150 electronic gauges and sensors take only seconds. “There has been quite a transformation,” said Fitzgerald, chief engineer of the Harris County Flood Control District.

Other cities with state-of-the-art flood prediction capabilities include Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Charlotte, North Carolina.

In the Bay Area, the newly expanded mid-Peninsula network was designed by hydrologists and data-crunchers at Berkeley-based Balance Hydrologics, using property volunteered by Stanford University, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and San Mateo County Parks.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has a network of 70 stream and rain gauges throughout the county, located along Los Gatos Creek, Stevens Creek, Alamitos Creek, Uvas Creek, the Guadalupe River and other sites.

Contra Costa County has three stream gauges, 29 rain gauges and one reservoir gauge, and it just received a grant to add 10 more stream gauges. It monitors Marsh Creek in the eastern part of the county and Walnut Creek in the central part of the county.

In Alameda County, a network of about 90 rain and stream gauges collects data used to estimate potential flood conditions. In the future, the county plans to expand its network to develop a database and Web tool that can be downloaded by residents.

The magic of the new technologies is that they can identify an emerging risk miles — and hours — away. Gauges, powered by solar panels, can accurately send electronic signals to data loggers via radio, landlines, cellphones or satellites. This data is more quickly analyzed due to increased computer power. And the flood risk is instantly communicated to nearby residents.

But, Materman said, it’s not enough to just gather information: “The first half of the problem is better data. The second half is: How do the public and emergency responders use that data?”

Increasingly, residents can go online to track water levels and changes in flow rates, said Gary Kremen, a board member of the Santa Clara Valley Water District. “There is greater transparency. It is empowering.”

But how well will this all work?

This winter’s El Niño could put it to the test.

“It is a work in progress,” Materman said. “Our work is based on models. We’ll need to ‘ground truth’ it.”

It’s far better, though, than keeping a watchful eye on a shrub, he said. “But it will take a real storm to see whether it behaves like we predict it should.”

  • BETTER GAUGING STATIONS: Rain gauges are 10-foot-tall pipes with a funnel, bucket and tipping mechanism at the top; each tip measures 0.04 inches of rainfall. Creek gauges have a membrane that precisely measures the depth of water and converts it into a flow rate, expressed in cubic feet per second.
  • IMPROVED DATA TRANSMISSION: Each time the rain gauge’s lever tips, its tiny internal computer sends a high-frequency radio transmission with the tip counter numbers to a receiver or repeater, then to a computer system. In creeks, the gauges convert the water’s depth to a flow rate, then transmit signals via phone lines.
  • FASTER ANALYSIS: With ever-increasing computer power, software processes the many signals into a computer database, which monitors the information as it is received. It triggers a warning when certain thresholds — say, water filling 80 percent of a creek’s capacity — are reached. Because different locations have different flood risks, the warnings can be localized.
  • ADVANCED COMPUTER MODELING: Instant access to project data is available through a cloud-based data center and can be viewed in real time or as a graph to identify trends. Using advanced math, topographic models can predict where and when water will likely go, if flooding occurs.
  • CELLPHONE ALERT SYSTEMS. In 2012, a California law went into effect that allows emergency alerts to be sent to cellphones, allowing flood control agencies to send automated warnings directly to the cell towers of major U.S. carriers, which then transmit those messages by text or email to phones. Residents of some communities can also track flood risk on websites.

###

Full Article Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/drought/ci_29453899/predicting-el-ninos-flood-risk-how-new-warning
Contact Journalist Lisa M. Krieger at 650-492-4098. Follow her at Twitter.com/LisaMKrieger and Facebook.com/LisaMKrieger.