Researchers at the University of Oklahoma hoping to save lives with enhanced flash-flood warning system

NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – According to the National Weather Service, flooding is the second deadliest hazard – with heat being the first – and researchers at OU hope to enhance the way flash flood warnings are categorized to prevent these tragedies.

We see it every year – drivers underestimating the power of water in flash flooding events.

Unfortunately, sometimes this leads to deadly consequences.

Researchers with the University of Oklahoma and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hope to help prevent this.

“In this case, our research focuses on the details the National Weather Services can use so when someone is trying to make decisions in this situation they have enough information to know whether it’s safe or not to proceed,” said Humberto Vergara Arrieta, research scientist in OU’s Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Studies.

Whenever a flash flooding warning is issued by forecasters at the NWS, they are using software developed in Norman.

This new research takes things a step further – helping them determine the threat level – whether it’s base, considerable or catastrophic.

“Our research will produce products with details that will guide the forecaster in knowing what threat level to choose and what kind of information, what kind of impact should these warnings include,” Arrieta said. 

The level could determine whether or not you have an alert sent to your phone.

Upper-level warnings will also alert emergency management in communities to alert law enforcement to take steps such as setting up barricades.

“We hope that the details and information that these products will have will guide forecasters to give enough information, enough details to the general public so they know how to respond or they have a better idea on what actions they could take or avoid during these flash flood events,” said Arrieta. 

The project started in September of 2020 and will last for two years. At the end, they will have prototypes of the products.

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