Iowa Flood Center Researchers Hope to Learn from Western Iowa Flooding

Saturday, July 16, 2011

University of Iowa News Release

As floodwaters on the Missouri River move relentlessly toward Iowa's western border, scientists at the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) are making plans to study the water's movements. Most of the western edge of the state faces the threat of flooding from the Missouri in the days and weeks ahead.

Iowa Flood Center Director Witold Krajewski says the IFC is planning to take aerial photographs of the flooded areas this week, collaborating with the University of Iowa's Operator Performance Laboratory (OPL), which will fly one of its instrumented aircraft, a Beechcraft A-36 Bonanza, to conduct the photography sessions. The high-resolution photography, combined with statewide LiDAR (laser radar) data already available, will allow researchers to delineate the boundaries of inundated areas and compare these with existing floodplain maps. The improved maps will help Iowans know what to expect during future floods.

"We hope to take the photos at the peak stage of the flood," Krajewski says. "The results will be extremely valuable as we continue to develop floodplain maps, which are useful for planners and property owners."

Woodbury County officials also contacted the IFC, calling upon the expertise and experience of IFC staff to assist with analysis of available GIS data sets to project the potential extent of the flooding. Woodbury County has not experienced flooding of this magnitude since the Gavins Point Dam was built in the 1950s. "Although we don't have time for a detailed analysis," IFC Associate Director Nathan Young says, "we're happy to put our heads together to help out in a timely way."

The Iowa Flood Center is part of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering in the UI College of Engineering, and was founded in 2009 with the mission to improve the prediction and monitoring of floods in Iowa. Since then, the IFC has brought engineering and scientific expertise to bear on a number of flood-related projects. Collaborating with government agencies, nonprofit organizations and Iowa communities, the IFC strives to help Iowans prepare for and live with floods.

One such project is the development of web-based flood maps for several Iowa communities. IFC researchers use bathymetric surveys and aerial LiDAR data to create physics-based computer models to predict how a flood wave travels through flood plains. These high-resolution models can illustrate the extent of flooding under different conditions. An interactive Google Maps-based online application allows Iowans to see how predicted flood levels could affect their property and make informed decisions.

The IFC's Iowa Flood Information System (IFIS) offers a number of interactive, user-friendly maps to help Iowans know when storms may lead to floods, and what to expect. The IFC calculated basin boundaries using recently updated digital elevation models of the state for 530 Iowa communities. The maps are available at http://www.iowafloodcenter.org. Once there, click on "IFIS."

The OPL at the UI is a leading flight research lab that applies human-centered principles to design and evaluation of human-machine systems. The OPL performs research on a diverse array of platforms and simulators, including fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, instrumented vehicles and earth-moving machines. The OPL's research leads to products that improve safety, decrease workload and enhance capabilities. The OPL has three aircraft in its fleet, four flight simulators, a Command and Control (C2) vehicle (model 997 HMMWV) and operates out of an 8,400-square-foot facility at the Iowa City Municipal airport.

Both the IFC and the OPL are research units of the UI College of Engineering.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Jackie Stolze, IIHR--Hydroscience and Engineering, 319-335-6410, jackie-stolze@uiowa.edu; Gary Galluzzo, University News Services, 319-384-0009, gary-galluzzo@uiowa.edu