This month, North Carolina launched FRIS, the Flood Risk Information System. It's the first system of its kind in the country to put all of the state's flood risk data, county-by-county, building-by-building, into one digital initiative.
It's not the prettiest map ever designed, but it's full of all sort of information that used to require a lot of manpower to produce for whoever wanted it.
For example, in Buncombe County, you can click on a building along the Swananoa River, and the system will likely tell you that there is a low flood risk for that building. But say you're still worried. Another option you have is to see estimates as to how you might mitigate any risk at all - be it spending tens of thousand of dollars to elevate the building, or hundreds of thousands to relocate.
Complete data isn't available for every county yet, including some of those that might be more interesting to observe along the Atlantic coast. But, in time, the public will have access to all sorts of flood models for storms of various magnitudes.
And it's all linked into Google street view, which will make the potential for a six-foot storm surge feel all the more real.
North Carolina is a test site for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see if this kind of digital initiative is useful. Already, Virginia and Alabama have signed on to the NC system, and Florida looks to be added in the near future.
John Dorman, the projects director, says that in a digital environment, the state no longer needs to redraw maps every time there's new cartographic data to be added. He says the state and FEMA will now save 30% of the money that had been spending on mapping. That's money they're now putting into doing more risk assessments which can be added into FRIS.
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