Flood Forecast Alerting based on NOAA’s National Water Model

Jennifer McGee, PE, CFM, GISP, Senior Water Resources Engineer & Digital Skills Lead, Wood PLC

In 2018, Wood kicked-off a project with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), Maryland Environmental Service (MES), the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to research the use of NOAA’s National Water Model (NWM) for riverine flood forecasting.  The National Water Model (NWM) “is a hydrologic model that simulates observed and forecast streamflow over the entire continental United States (CONUS)”, based on the National Hydrography Dataset (NHDPlusV2) stream network of ~2.7 million stream reaches.  We coupled the NWM data with FEMA Risk MAP HEC-RAS models to build a pilot system for flood forecast alerting and inundation mapping.

Using lessons learned from that pilot, our Wood project team was successful in winning internal R&D funding through a CoLab Challenge to build a more robust solution.  The new project is a web application that brings the alerting and mapping into a single platform.  Clients and other stakeholders will be able to customize their experience, building personalized alerts for their areas of interest and flood severity levels, receiving either email or text message alerts.  When alerts are received, they can log into the portal to see more detailed information.

NOAA’s NWM Reanalysis dataset, which includes data from a multi-decade retrospective simulation, will also be incorporated into the project.  This will help provide default flood threshold values for all stream reaches, making the tool ready-to-use even if detailed hydrology data is not available.  The web app will also have an integrated mapping view of the flood inundation layers where flood models are available.

This is a great all-in-one portal for keeping tabs on flood forecasting and a great addition to other decision-making datasets in your toolbox.  This presentation will provide a brief background on the NWM, share key insights we’ve learned from this project, and talk about future enhancements that are planned.


Author Bio

Ms. McGee is a Water Resources Engineer (PE) with Wood in the Washington DC, US office. She has an interdisciplinary background that also includes GIS analysis, database design and python programming. Daily work focuses on a variety of flood risk analysis projects. She utilizes Microsoft's Office 365 and other digital technologies to develop data science solutions for these projects and also business operations. As the Digital Skills Lead, she also hosts the Wood’s O365 Community meetings to share training and project applications for O365 technology across the company.