Science & Technology
5:40 am
Fri August 26, 2011

Irene to Test Flood Prediction System

An experimental flood forecasting system will get a test with Hurricane Irene. Scientists have been experimenting with computer models since Hurricane Floyd produced heavier than expected flooding in 1999. The models are designed to predict how fresh water stream flow, ocean tides, and storm surge will interact. Suzanne VanCooten is a research hydro-meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory. She says one thing that's different this year from the lead-up to Hurricane Floyd is that many eastern North Carolina counties have been in a drought.

Suzanne VanCooten: "However because they have been in drought, we are looking at the possibility of having a very quick runoff. So a lot of that water, because the soils are so dry right now, will likely run off quicker than if we had basically a normal summertime moisture pattern in North Carolina."

VanCooten says their water level forecasts for the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse rivers and the Pamlico Sound are sent to National Weather Service forecasters. They use the data to issue flood watches and warnings.