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Near-Real-Time Tracking of U.S. Flood-Related Fatalities—A Preliminary Outreach and Database Project

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Thursday, 6 November 2014
Capitol Ballroom AB (Madison Concourse Hotel)
Todd J. Shea, NOAA/NWS, La Crosse, WI; and T. J. Halbach

Near-Real-Time Tracking of U.S. Flood-Related Fatalities – A Preliminary Outreach and Database Project

Todd J. Shea

NOAA/National Weather Service Forecast Office, La Crosse, WI

Timothy J. Halbach

NOAA/National Weather Service Forecast Office, La Crosse, WI

Flooding is one of the deadliest weather-related natural hazards in the United States. Yet, real-time information on fatalities is not always accessible like other severe hazards such as tornadoes, lightning, and wind. Often opportunities for flood safety-related outreach had to use summary information from previous years with less emphasis on specific cases or recent events.

In an effort to make near-real-time information and statistics more accessible to National Weather Service (NWS) headquarters and field offices, a project was started in 2011 to track preliminary flood or suspected flood-related fatalities using a dynamic database. This database of flooding information can be used to track incidents, coordinate confirmed fatalities, and provide at least preliminary statistics during outreach opportunities. In addition, specific cases can be highlighted during outreach to make the impact more personal, leading to better response during future flooding events.

From 2011 to 2013 there were 225 fatalities tracked and verified. Preliminary use of this data set and an internal coordination web site by Warning Coordination Meteorologists (WCMs) and Service Hydrologists (SH) in the NWS Central Region has been very well received and “very helpful” in outreach activities.

An explanation of how this database is maintained, coordinated, and distributed will be highlighted. In addition, trends and behaviors surrounding more recent specific flood-related deaths will be examined to illustrate how this near-real-time tracking can be used to promote flood safety.