Norfolk, Va. Offers real-time flood data to drivers

(TNS) – Norfolk drivers have familiarized themselves with the street-by-street nuances of navigating in the floods. Now, they will be the first to test a more precise way to maneuver around floodwaters, based not on local intelligence but on real-time data.

On Monday, the city launched the integration of locally developed technology with the Waze navigation app. It will provide real-time alerts on flooded roads.

Waze is piloting the program with Norfolk. The forecasting technology comes from FloodMapp, a climate technology company funded by RISE Resilience Innovations, the Norfolk-based nonprofit that distributes money and resources to find solutions to environmental challenges.


“As our streets are flooded more often due to climate change, we need to find a sustainable way to alert community members to the risks they face,” said Kyle Spencer, deputy head of Norfolk resilience, in a press release. “FloodMapp’s technology provides affordable city-wide situational awareness that current solutions, such as sensor-only networks, do not. “

Norfolk began working with Google-owned Waze five years ago, tapping into the flow of data from tens of thousands of Waze users crossing the region.

Officials have found that the small bugs left by users – to mark flooded roads or car crashes – were reliable, The Pilot reported in 2018. They aligned themselves with information from sensors placed around local roads to follow the floods.

“Where we’d like to go with that is telling the app the road is already flooded so users know before they get there,” Spencer told The Pilot at the time.

Australian start-up FloodMapp, which now has an office in Norfolk, won RISE’s Urban Mobility Resilience Challenge in late 2020. The company secured $ 300,000 and business mentorship to develop and commercialize a forecasting system. floods to be tested at Hampton Roads.

CEO and co-founder Juliette Murphy said the company got started “because we saw first-hand the causes of the devastating floods and wanted to be part of a solution that helps people around the world.”

The company mixes precipitation, tidal and river data into its flood model, which is then overlaid on Norfolk’s road network as a GIS and sent to Waze, according to a press release.

Waze users will receive pop-up icons and audio alerts alerting them to flooded streets. Drivers can confirm when they see flooding, by validating the technology.

The app is working on a feature that would automatically redirect drivers on these streets.

© 2022 The Virginian-Pilot. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Lance B. Holton