RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Transportation's nationally recognized advance flood warning system is in the running for two top prizes, and the state agency needs the public's help to win one of the accolades.
The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, or AASHTO, is recognizing the flood warning system as a “Top 12" finalist in the 2023 America's Transportation Awards competition.
As a finalist, NCDOT is competing for two top honors – the Grand Prize and the People's Choice Awards.
“Becoming a finalist is a tremendous testament to our department's commitment to resiliency, safety and innovation," Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said. “This cutting-edge tool will help us be more prepared to respond to any storm and allow us to better communicate with our state and local partners and the traveling public about any hazardous situations that may arise due to flooding."
Each award comes with a $10,000 cash prize to be donated to a charity to be determined. A nationwide panel of experts will determine the Grand Prize winner, while the People's Choice Award will be based on online voting from the public.
How the public can vote
People may cast a ballot for NCDOT's flood-warning system on the
contest webpage. Individuals may vote daily across multiple devices through Nov. 14.
The winners for this year's Grand Prize Award and People Choice Award will be announced by AASHTO in November.
In 2021, NCDOT won the Grand Prize for its Salem Parkway project, which involved the reconstruction of Interstate 40 Business in downtown Winston-Salem.
Staff alerted of flooded bridge
The flood warning system helps NCDOT staff prepare for, respond to and recover more quickly from a severe weather event. The system relies on a network of over 500 river or stream gauges and monitors more than 15,000 bridges and culverts and over 2,000 miles of state-maintained roads. The system, which is used internally by NCDOT staff, comprises three programs dubbed Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network for Transportation; BridgeWatch; and the Transportation Surge Analysis Predictive Program.
Under this system, the Highway Division 14 bridge maintenance office was alerted at 5:57 a.m. on June 20 about a bridge in Polk County in western North Carolina that had “a potential for flooding." Division crews scrambled to the site that morning, inspected it and immediately closed it to traffic after confirming the flooding from the storm had caused a critical foundation failure. The bridge will be replaced.
“This system can alert us to critical information early on during a storm and potentially save lives," said Matt Lauffer, the state hydraulics design engineer for NCDOT. “The programs in our flood-warning system rapidly alert us to any problems that may be occurring to the roads, bridges and culverts we are monitoring."
The NCDOT modeled the program, in part, after the N.C. Emergency Management's (NCEM) flood inundation mapping system that focuses on buildings that may flood in a storm. The NCDOT relies on NCEM's existing network of stream gauges, which cover over 2,000 miles of roadway, and elevation data to gather critical information.
“This advance warning system is a testament to the great things that come when strong partners collaborate," said William Ray, director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management. “Together, these systems are helping our agencies quickly respond to storms so we can better protect the public from major flooding events."