Nov 26, 2007

Arizona Town Hopes to Speed Flood Response Process

Flooding response time could increase by minutes for an Arizona town.

A new flood warning system could help Scottsdale, Ariz. officials to decrease response time for flooded roads. The month-old system may only speed up the process by minutes, but it helps to get the information to response crews faster.

The McDowell Mountains cause particular concern for north Scottsdale, where storm water runs down steep terrain and takes out roads. Residents are particularly leery of a number of city-approved development projects, which they claim are disrupting natural washes and causing downstream flooding.

The previous flood warning system notified storm water and emergency management staff of potential flooding concerns, using police and fire dispatchers to alert response crews.

The new system, WeatherSentry, costs $56,000 initially with $20,000 in annual operation costs. It now alerts road maintenance and parks staff as well as police and fire crews through laptops, handheld devices and other portable devices. The alerts include real-time weather reports that are expected to decrease response time by up to three minutes, allowing city staff to block roads earlier.

In addition to the new system, city officials are also hoping to hire two new storm water engineers to seek applications to help fix frequently flooded areas. They also would like to hire two drainage inspectors to watch waterways for development alterations to the area’s system of natural washes and code violations.

Senior city storm water planner Bill Erickson sees this as a useful improvement: “A minute is a long time in this country,” he told the East Valley Tribune.