SAN ANTONIO - With hurricane season officially starting today, planning for floods and other emergencies is vital for many Texans. To improve the planning and response to natural disasters, scientists are simulating what might happen before these events occur.
"This is really a game-changing project which I hope in the long run will save lives and property in Texas," says Texas A&M professor Sam Brody, who is the director of the Institute for Disaster Resilient Texas. He explained the project during the Texas Emergency Management Conference today at the Convention Center.
The flooding simulation is a collaboration between several universities; Texas A&M, Lamar, Rice and the University of Texas. They produced a specialized table-mounted sandbox to demonstrate what happens during a disaster.
The simulation should give state leaders critical information when a disaster occurs.
"We're starting with floods, but then we're moving to other disasters such as fire and drought and other disasters that afflict Texas," Brody says.
The $40 million project is called "a fusion of data products" by Suzanne Pierce of the Texas Advanced Computing Center. She's also the director of the Texas Disaster Information System.
"We're using some of the fastest and best and largest computers on the face of the earth today to generate model results and start to bring it all together," she says. "We're focusing on planning and mitigation."
The goal is to eventually make the modeling accessible to the general public when an extreme event occurs.
"How at risk you might be or maybe which ways you might need to get out of the city," she says.
Getting real-time information could be the difference between life and death.
"Once we get the system implemented, an individual homeowner will be able to put in their address or click on their parcel and better understand his or her risk," Brody says.
The simulation used at the conference was pegged to Orange County in Southeast Texas.
"This was born out of Hurricane Harvey in 2017," Brody says. "We noticed this problem of data being siloed and fragmented, unshareable and we proposed this system to consolidate the data.
"Five years later, we now have a $40 million contract with the Texas GLO which is funding the project."
He says the project is transformational - "It's going to change the way decisions are made around disasters in Texas."