IoT’s role in natural disasters like Harvey
By Hannah White
Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas this past weekend, bringing 30+ inches of rain and devastating flood waters. This is the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. in ten years and the extent of the damage is still unknown, with tens of thousands of Texan residents displaced. While the storm itself was bad, Houston’s approach to urban planning only made it worse. In a three part series in December 2016, Pro Publica outlined how the city’s infrastructure wouldn’t hold up to a flood.
“Houston is the most flood-prone city in the United States,” said Phil Bedient, Rice University Environmental Engineering Professor
There were some technological advancements that played critical roles in relief during and after Harvey. Social media supported and expanded civilian rescue efforts. Open data became instrumental in providing residents with up to date information about flood levels and shelter locations. In the aftermath, the city of Houston and private companies like AT&T are employing IoT technology to identify damage and provide aid and information.
At the height of the storm, open data provided locals with accurate and up-to-date information. Residents could identify rising water levels through an interface created by Sketch City, which tracked the county flood gauges. The gauges were installed throughout the city’s bayou system, which was created to collect and drain water.
The “depression era design” of the bayou was no match for the rain levels of this 500-year flood, and the gauges became the critical source of water level measurements informing residents on which evacuation routes were still usable.