Governor Cuomo announces new upstate flood warning system

By WBNG News

Governor Cuomo announces new upstate flood warning system

October 31, 2013 Updated Oct 31, 2013 at 12:20 PM EST

(WBNG Binghamton) New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday announced that New York State intends to establish a new Upstate New York Flood Warning System, which will substantially improve the forecasting frequency, accuracy, and modeling and mapping for any potential flooding throughout critical watershed regions in Upstate New York.

“In the last several years, Upstate New York experienced some of the worst flooding in the state’s history,” Governor Cuomo said in a news release. “There is no question that there has been a dramatic change in the climate causing larger, less predictable storms. This new warning system will be invaluable in better preparing state and local emergency personnel, so that they can streamline communications and make timely, more informed decisions regarding water control and emergency evacuations. This project is another example of how the state is learning from past experiences and taking actions to ensure we are more ready for Mother Nature in the future.”

According to a news release from Cuomo's office:

The Canal Corporation Board approved this project, contingent on the approval of Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, at their last meeting on September 11, 2013. The Canal Corporation has designated Riverside Technology, Inc. and its sub-consultants to lead the effort because of their global flood forecasting and extensive local hydrology and hydraulic experience.

The State has submitted an $8.5 million Hazard Mitigation Grant Proposal to FEMA for the funding of the updated and improved flood warning system.

This warning system will encompass three watersheds -- the Oswego River Basin, Mohawk River Basin, and Upper Hudson River Basin -- in 27 upstate counties, where flooding has long been a recurring problem. In total, more than 13,000 square miles will be covered. Since 2006, three separate flooding events (summer 2006, Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, and the recent 2013 storms) have resulted in damages to private property and public infrastructure estimated to be in the billions of dollars. An advanced early warning system can reduce flood-induced property loss by upwards of 15%, with even more important benefits to human life and health.

The flood warning system will use weather forecasts, precipitation gages, and newly installed and existing stream gages to fine tune flood warnings. In this way, local communities will get more precise flood warnings that will be integrated with online maps to show predicted areas and depths of flooding. First responders will get more detailed and earlier data of impending flooding to evacuate people and save lives. Residents and businesses will be able to go online at any time to see what areas could be affected by floods of varying severities.

The current flood warning system, the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, has limitations where accurate forecasts are not always immediately available. New York’s proposal will substantially improve the forecasting frequency, accuracy, and modeling and mapping to fill in the many gaps which exist in these basins.

“The communities along the canal system are essential in revitalizing upstate New York. We must take all necessary steps to protect them as weather events become stronger and more difficult to predict,” said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Chairman Howard P. Milstein. “The new warning system will give us the ability to do just that through increased preparedness and communication between governmental entities.”

“Improving our ability to forecast flooding is vital to protecting our communities during these large storms,” said Thruway Authority and Canal Corporation Executive Director Thomas Madison. “State and local officials need tools and data necessary to properly mitigate flooding and this new system will provide them with both.”

“The new warning system will help us to stay several steps ahead of floods,” said Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Stratton. “The new web based tools to be utilized by state and local officials will indicate not only the areas likely to be inundated during flooding, but also when peak flows will occur, giving us a greater ability to forecast and minimize repetitive damages in these basins.”

Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said, “New York State is taking comprehensive action to reduce flooding risks and protect communities from storms and floods, and this warning system will be an important component of this effort. Governor Cuomo is committed to implementing flood control and mitigation projects that will ensure the safety of New Yorkers during severe weather and state agencies will continue to work collaboratively to enhance flood protections for families, businesses, and farms.”

Once approved, the New York State Canal Corporation will manage the project in coordination with its many State and Federal partners, including the New York State Thruway Authority, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Division of Homeland Security, National Weather Service, and United States Geological Survey.

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