Fort Worth

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Flash Flood Deaths: What happened and how it could be avoided

Fort Worth officials say flash flooding that killed three people on the east side of the city might have been from an event that only happens once every 50 or maybe even 100 years.
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Fort Worth officials say flash flooding that killed three people on the east side of the city might have been from an event that only happens once every 50 or maybe even 100 years.

Five months after four people, including a mother and her 2-year-old daughter drowned in Fort Worth flash flooding, the city has launched an interactive map designed to provide drivers will real-time warnings about dangerous roads.

The map shows conditions at 52 low water crossings known to collect water during heavy rain. Those spots could be dangerous during flash flooding. Just 1 foot of water will float most vehicles and 2 feet of moving water can have enough power to sweep a car away.

Drivers can see three stages of flood road conditions: a green “NONE” indicator for no threat, a yellow “CAUTION” prompt for potentially hazardous conditions and a red “AVOID” marker for streets where water has overtopped the road.

Previously the city relies on a series of weather stations and high-water warning lights at dozens of low-water crossings. Weather data is collected at 39 existing and 20 new dedicated weather stations, along with stations belonging to regional partners.

The map was developed using a Texas Water Development Board grant is the first step in what the city hopes is a more robust warning system, said Ranjan Muttiah, a senior city engineer.

Tentative talks have begun to partner with the North Central Texas Council of Governments for a regional flood map. Muttiah would also like to see real-time images and conditions available through social media and in an app or integrated into Google Maps or Waze.

Last year Austin introduced a flash flood camera system with an interactive map. Like a traffic camera, near real-time images provide updates on water levels at flood-prone crossings while the map shows which roads are dangerous or impassable.

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Luke Ranker covers the intersection of people and government focused on Fort Worth and Tarrant County. He came to Texas from the plains of Kansas, where he wrote about a lot, including government, crime and courts in Topeka. He survived a single winter in Pennsylvania as a breaking news reporter. He can be reached at 817-390-7747 or lranker@star-telegram.com.

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