App helps people during flooding

The flooding we’ve seen this year has brought home the point that knowing where low water crossings are is extremely important. That’s why a local man developed the Austin Crossings app to help people navigate around these potentially deadly crossings.

Drivers see the signs and officials always warn: Turn around, don’t drown. But when it comes to rain and low water crossings in Central Texas there are those who don’t listen.

When roads get covered in water it’s hard to judge how deep it is and that’s where the danger lies. It’s why authorities place signs up, use flashing lights and the City of Austin has the ATXfloods website to help people know which low water crossings are closed.

When Brandon Arnold move to Austin in 2014, he quickly recognized the area’s traffic problem and how worse it is when weather is involved.

Since he was new to town, Arnold says trying to navigate around the low water crossings was tricky.

"A lot of people still see them and think, "oh it's just a little bit of water I can go through it.” Arnold says. He says he went looking for an app that could help but couldn’t find anything.

Arnold says he did use ATXfloods to help.

“If you leave work, you check the site after it's raining, say it's fine. Then you get in your car and get going, conditions can change in an instant. You are really rolling the dice when you go out there in the storm,” Arnold says.

Arnold says while the ATXfloods site is a valuable resource he says it can be difficult to navigate when you’re not on a desktop. "It's not the most accessible thing when you're on a mobile device.”

This got Arnold, an IT tech, thinking. He used his kitchen as an office and developed his own app called Austin Crossings.

For six months Arnold cooked up ways to make the app more effective and helpful.

"The more I worked on it the more I realized this is the kind of information that needs to be out there. It would be a lot more accessible from a mobile device," Arnold says.

Austin Crossings works as a companion app with the ATXfloods website.

“(All) I tried to do is take the information they had and wrap it up and make it a little bit more accessible and easier to use for mobile devices," Arnold says.

Using the open data provided by ATXfloods, Arnold uploads it to a server and then in almost real time the same date is listed on his mobile app.

Arnold says, "When you open it up you come out to a basic map that has your location and the crossings that may be around you."

The map refreshes automatically. Arnold adds that the app is very user friendly and can be tailored to your specific routes and needs.

Arnold says the people at ATXfloods are happy for his help. Especially considering some facts according to the CDC:

  • Six inches of fast moving water can knock over an adult
  • 12 inches of rushing water can carry away a small car
  • 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles

It’s why having a resource like the Austin Crossings app in the palm of your hand could help save your life.

Right now the free app is only available to download on Android phones and tablets. Arnold hopes to expand to IOS soon and add more features.