Austin looks to expand use of surveillance cameras against flash flooding

It was a long day at a small emergency command center located on the 12th floor of One Texas Center in south Austin. The wet forecast made for an early start for had Kevin Shunk, lead engineer with the Austin Watershed Protection Department, and the rest of the team.

"It's been pretty busy, overall maybe an inch to two niches or rain, pretty uniformed across the city," said Shunk.

Road crews were sent to confirm flooding reports at traditional problems areas like the low water crossing on tanner lane. Along Onion Creek 2 cameras provide 24 hour surveillance. One is suspended from the Bluff Springs Rd bridge. The other camera is located on River Plantation Drive. Images are transmitted back to the control center. By clicking on the camera icons, changing conditions can quickly be observed.

"They're looking great. The cameras have been performing great since we had them installed," said Shunk.

He went on to say, "Its been nice for us having them there, and just have another visual check from the gauges we already have out there that are close. We can have a visual check without sending a field crew out there. Check the cameras, see what level is at the bridges and verify some of the information that we have."

The cameras are part of a two year $24-thousand pilot program. A third camera may be installed near Buda. The location for a 4th has not yet been determined. The cameras are designed to break away. Any lost or damaged are replaced by the company that's providing the equipment. Access to the cameras is not limited to just city officials, anyone can take a lot because the information is posted on the internet. The information is @atxfloods.com

The goal is to quickly react to flash flooding like what happened October 31, 2013 along Onion Creek. Five people were killed and several hundred homes and businesses were destroyed. A network of cameras could provide better early warning. It's an idea that has residents like Vedaraman Sriraman, cautiously optimistic.

"If they've proven themselves to be effective, certainly," said Sriraman.

Next week- the city will start a process that could lead to the creation of a metro flash flood camera network. To keep costs down- proposals are to use similar technology that's already in place. How big of a network, and how big of a bill it will take to build one is not known at this time.

It was a long day at a small emergency command center located on the 12th floor of One Texas Center in south Austin. The wet forecast made for an early start for had Kevin Shunk, lead engineer with the Austin Watershed Protection Department, and the rest of the team.

"It's been pretty busy, overall maybe an inch to two niches or rain, pretty uniformed across the city," said Shunk.

Road crews were sent to confirm flooding reports at traditional problems areas like the low water crossing on tanner lane. Along Onion Creek 2 cameras provide 24 hour surveillance. One is suspended from the Bluff Springs Rd bridge. The other camera is located on River Plantation Drive. Images are transmitted back to the control center. By clicking on the camera icons, changing conditions can quickly be observed.

"They're looking great. The cameras have been performing great since we had them installed," said Shunk.

He went on to say, "Its been nice for us having them there, and just have another visual check from the gauges we already have out there that are close. We can have a visual check without sending a field crew out there. Check the cameras, see what level is at the bridges and verify some of the information that we have."

The cameras are part of a two year $24-thousand pilot program. A third camera may be installed near Buda. The location for a 4th has not yet been determined. The cameras are designed to break away. Any lost or damaged are replaced by the company that's providing the equipment. Access to the cameras is not limited to just city officials, anyone can take a lot because the information is posted on the internet. The information is @atxfloods.com

The goal is to quickly react to flash flooding like what happened October 31, 2013 along Onion Creek. Five people were killed and several hundred homes and businesses were destroyed. A network of cameras could provide better early warning. It's an idea that has residents like Vedaraman Sriraman, cautiously optimistic.

"If they've proven themselves to be effective, certainly," said Sriraman.

Next week- the city will start a process that could lead to the creation of a metro flash flood camera network. To keep costs down- proposals are to use similar technology that's already in place. How big of a network, and how big of a bill it will take to build one is not known at this time.


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