This Storm Smart Solution Could Improve Virginia Beach Resilience

Virginia figured out a smart solution to better prepare for emergencies like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 that required U.S. Army reconnaissance.
Image: Flickr

The StormSense project in Virginia is a smart solution for municipalities that want to face their storm damage challenges head on — with data analytics, forecasts and tech tools that empower emergency planning and improve community resilience.

With its award-winning tool, StormSense, the cities of Virginia Beach, Newport News, Norfolk, Hampton, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Williamsburg and York County, Virginia, can forecast rising sea levels and coastal flooding 36 hours ahead of storms. That means the municipalities in the region can mitigate damage from the impact of rising sea levels and coastal flooding events and minimize emergencies by alerting the region’s emergency management teams and its citizens and putting the right emergency planning modalities into action.

Virginia has a robust history of hurricanes, and was recently the host of the 2018 National Level Exercise, a biennial exercise led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

StormSense is a replicable smart city solution that uses a system of smart sensors, cloud tools and data analytics to develop its flooding forecasts developed by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary, Christopher Newport University, the Virginia Department of Health and Wetlands Watch, according to the organization USIgnite, which promotes smart city research and project deployments.

Smart Solution Data Outputs

It’s in part a big data project funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and a 2017 AWS City on a Cloud award, according to GCN.

“A critical ingredient for any smart solution is data. It offers insight into the status of municipal processes, and the changes required to meet local government objectives,” according to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in its announcement about the solution recently named the Smart Water winner of The International Data Corporation’s Smart City North America Awards.

AWS, which hosts StormSense, said coastal local government officials supported the academic-led smart solution they entered in last year’s funding and resources competition to improve resilience. The network of Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled, water-level sensors leverage the hydrodynamic flood modeling and forecasting capabilities of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science’s TideWatch program, which is a network of U.S. Geological Survey tide sensors and a forecast algorithm application.

By incorporating an existing municipal geographic information system — and by operating StormSense on a cloud platform — the region’s emergency managers can access the smart solution anywhere, anytime from any device and keep appraised of flooding near bridges or roads and other available metrics.

But the results of all the Big Data analysis doesn’t end with local governments using and accessing StormSense.

Virginia Beach began working with the Alexa API to develop a skill that will provide StormSense forecasts directly to residents and emergency managers through Amazon’s voice activated virtual assistant. The government developers are also exploring how any available water level information might also be shared through the skill.

There’s also cameras and comparitive analytics opportunities possibly in the Virginia Beach region’s storm smart future.

Access the GCN coverage for further details.

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Praetorian Digital. She is based in Massachusetts.