Living along the southern coast of Delaware definitely has its perks. Fishing, beaches and cool bay breezes can make for an idyllic way of life. But members of the Kent County community can tell you that living by the water is not always a carefree existence.
On Mother’s Day in 2008, the Delaware Bay coast of Kent County suffered a serious coastal flooding event. One person died and at least 150 residents were evacuated from their homes. Monetary estimates of the damage ranged from $1–2 million. Not only were community members unprepared for the event, but emergency management officials had no accurate gauge as to how serious the flooding would be, and thus their response was delayed.
The aftereffects of the Mother’s Day flood left citizens and emergency management officials alike wondering if there was a better way to plan for these types of events. Two state agencies, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), collaborated with the University of Delaware and the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) and found an answer in the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS).
Led by professors David R. Legates and Daniel J. Leathers from the Department of Geography, DEOS was created in 2003 as a real-time, regional monitoring system that provides data on weather conditions, water levels, snow depth, and various other environmental factors obtained from automated weather stations in and around the state.
Bob Scarborough, senior scientist for DNREC’s Delaware Coastal Programs section, calls the collaboration between the state and the University “critical” for the success of the system.
“The University has the expertise and experience to develop the system, while the state has the data available to validate the information, as well as the outreach connections to insure that critical users are familiar with the system and know how to access it,” he says.
The coastal flood monitoring system was established primarily for emergency personnel in Kent County as an early warning system for coastal flooding events. John A. Callahan, a research associate for DGS, and Kevin Brinson, a researcher for DEOS, launched a prototype forecast notification system and website displaying pertinent information regarding local water levels. DNREC and the Delaware EPSCoR program provided funding for the project.
According to Brinson, “The system obtains information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service and then app