The VA IFLOWS Program – The Path Forward

The Integrated Flood Observing and Warning System (IFLOWS) has been a program housed within the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) for 30+ years. The network was originally designed and funded by the National Weather Service (NWS) in the late 1970s and early 1980s in several Appalachian states including VA, WV, and KY.  The primary purpose was to enhance the NWS flash flood program after a series of devastating flood events. This remains a key primary use of the network but it was also designed to allow emergency management in localities to obtain actionable information about impending heavy rainfall and subsequent flood threats.  The network has suffered from years of inadequate funding and neglect but the state of Virginia through VDEM has committed funds toward upgrading and modernizing the system. This talk will summarize a planned Pilot project for 2022 and present some goals and options for the program going forward. The goals of the program include: 1) restoring operational readiness to at least 95%; 2) develop a more sustainable long-term maintenance program; 3) provide an accessible and reliable long-term hydrological database; 4) maximize value to chief stakeholders; 5) develop an improved capability for collecting and understanding the data infrastructure. In 2022 VDEM is planning to execute a Pilot program with several shorter term goals. These include: 1) assess the current state of the network, test gauge and communications functionality, maintenance and responsiveness; 2) Perform a network study to ensure optimum rain and stream gage locations to meet user needs; 3) Test one or modernized communications protocols including ALERT2 radio, Satellite (GOES/Iridium), and cellular.