Mecklenburg Partners with DHS to Monitor Flood Conditions

CHARLOTTE, NC — Crews will keep a close eye on creeks and streams across our area over the next 24 hours. All the rain could cause flash flooding.

Right now there are 54 monitors keeping track of water levels, but there could soon be a lot more, and for a lot less money.

Flooding is the number one cause of death among natural disasters. Two months ago Hurricane Florence dropped between 6 and 10 inches of rain in Mecklenburg County, causing widespread flooding.

“We need to know how the water—how fast the water is coming up, how deep the water is,” says John Wendel of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. “Are we seeing any flooding across the creeks and streams in Mecklenburg County?”

Now Charlotte-Mecklenburg SWS is partnering with the Department of Homeland Security to test a better way to monitor creeks and streams.

“Think about it as a smoke detector for your streams,” says Wendel. “It gives you an early warning that something’s happening.”

Three companies are bidding for the project. The sensors cost about $1,000, compared to $20,000 for the current sensor set up. Each confidential company has a solar-panelled sensor in 25 locations. They’re gathering data on water levels. The rain this week is a good test of the computer accuracy.

Wendel says the sensors trigger when water hits a certain height, notifying emergency workers and the public of a flooding event, which could potentially save lives.

“If we had more sensors out there, we could cover a larger area,” says Wendel. “And that’s the ultimate goal.”

Wendel says the hope is to tie the computer information from the sensors into a smartphone app that would alert people about dangerous high water conditions. The testing phase runs through March.