Campus researchers’ newest weapon in flood warnings: Google Maps

The Flood Alert System has predicted flooding for 40 major storms in its 12 years of operation, according to SSPEED, including notable events like Tropical Storm Frances in 1998 and Hurricane Ike in 2008. The system was last updated in 2004, when radar was incorporated.

Rice’s alert technology has always focused on Brays Bayou, a 127-square-mile watershed that drains in parts of Houston and six nearby suburbs, according to SSPEED, and the Texas Medical Center’s 140 buildings and 93,000 employees have always been vulnerable to flooding from the watershed.

Flood season technically starts June 1, Bedient said, but most major flooding doesn’t threaten the Houston area until August, September, and October. He said SSPEED researchers track weather patterns closely in the late summer and fall, but it takes “quite a lot of rainfall” to grab their attention.

“We have to get six inches of rain to get excited about flood opportunities,” Bedient said. “We start to look at it very carefully at that point.”

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