With community help, USF developing app to show neighborhood-level flooding, climate risks

Across Florida, local governments and emergency management officials rely on flood prediction models to determine the vulnerability and flood risks for areas of their communities when a storm like Hurricane Idalia hits.

University of South Florida researchers are developing a new app that will use photographs of post-storm flooding and other community-submitted information to better identify flooding threats and climate vulnerability down to the neighborhood level.

Team lead Barnali Dixon, a GIS and remote sensing professor at USF St. Petersburg and the executive director of USF’s Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience, says the app, will build on the Community Resilience Information System (CRIS) platform launched in 2000 and be known as CRIS-HAZARD.

“The current CRIS is a very static model,” Dixon says. “What we are going to do is make this more dynamic and more interactive with the community.”

A $1.5 million National Science Foundation grant will fund the development of the app, a process expected to take three years. Georgia Tech University is working with USF on the project.

Dixon says USF is launching outreach efforts in coastal neighborhoods such as Shore Acres and Bahama Shores to get community input on the development of the app and build community support to use the app when it is launched. She says outreach efforts will also focus on communities such as South St. Petersburg and Lealman, where the app will be able to show areas where older or poorly maintained drainage infrastructure exacerbates flooding issues. That outreach process included a town hall meeting at Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in South St. Petersburg on October 14th.

For both coastal areas and communities with older infrastructure, the CRIS-HAZARD app is intended to provide policymakers and elected officials with valuable on-the-ground data to inform decisions, Dixon says. The app will also help officials pinpoint areas with vulnerable or elderly populations who may need transportation assistance to evacuate or need e electricity because of a medical condition. She points to the example of a person with diabetes who may need ice for storing insulin if a storm knocks out their power. 

Dixon says she is working to find community leaders who might serve as “storm watchers” or a “storm squad” in their neighborhoods to gather information on those “hidden needs” in the community.

For more information, go to USF iCAR
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Read more articles by Christopher Curry.

Chris Curry has been a writer for the 83 Degrees Media team since 2017. Chris also served as the development editor for a time before assuming the role of managing editor in May 2022. Chris lives in Clearwater. His professional career includes more than 15 years as a newspaper reporter, primarily in Ocala and Gainesville, before moving back home to the Tampa Bay Area. He enjoys the local music scene, the warm winters and Tampa Bay's abundance of outdoor festivals and events. When he's not working or spending time with family, he can frequently be found hoofing the trails at one of Pinellas County's nature parks.