In an effort to combat dangers resulting from flash flooding, which has been reported as the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States, the County’s Public Works Department implemented the High-water Alert Lifesaving Technology, or HALT Program, in 2008, and has been expanding it ever since.
The County announced the completion of Phase III of the HALT Program Tuesday, furthering its efforts to reduce potential catastrophes on flooded roadways and alert drivers of nearby low water crossings.
The weather tracking and alert system, which was funded through the 10-year, $500 million Bexar County Flood Control Program, employs flashing lights, automated gates, or a combination of both once the water reaches a certain depth at one of its monitored locations.
The County has invested more than $10.3 million in the program since its inception.
“We can’t stop flash flooding, but with this $10 million investment, Bexar County is doing everything it can to protect citizens,” stated Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff in a news release.
The third phase of the program includes the installation of 92 new high water detection sites around the county along with the launch of a new website, bexarflood.org. The website, which is the result of a partnership among the County, the City of San Antonio, and the San Antonio River Authority, gathers and shares data with users on the status of various monitored low water roadways.
With the additional monitored sites announced Tuesday, the regional website will feature information on a total of 185 low water crossings in the county, which also include sites monitored by the City and the River Authority that are inside and outside San Antonio city limits.
“By installing these HALT sites we are warning drivers with lights and barricades that a road is not safe the very minute water reaches a certain depth,” Wolff stated. “And with this new website, drivers can receive alerts when roads they travel regularly to work or school are under water.”
Anyone can access the website – which was developed by Kimley-Horn & Associates – and see real-time flood sensor data displayed on an interactive map, powered by Google Maps. Each site is marked by a different colored circle: red for a closed site, yellow for a cautioned site, and green for a safe, open site. Users can subscribe to any of the locations to receive text messages or email alerts of any flood-related changes at the respective site.
The site also will utilize Twitter to display relevant flood notifications from various agencies. After one year, the River Authority will assume responsibility and management of the web portal as a part of the Bexar Regional Watershed Management partnership.
Director of Public Works/County Engineer Renee Green said that the department eventually hopes to expand the HALT Program to become a mobile app to accommodate those without a computer, a concern raised by Bexar County Commissioners Tommy Calvert (Pct. 4) and Sergio “Chico” Rodriguez (Pct. 1). In early November, Green will come back to commissioner’s court to gain approval to develop a mobile device compatibility contract with a company.
Eventually, she added, the platform also will include data from the River Authority gauge stations and the United States Geological Survey stream gauge sites.
Top image: A flood gauge under Highway 281 is nearly overcome after heavy weekend rains on Oct. 24, 2015. Photo by Iris Dimmick
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