LSU AgCenter online flood maps get inundated

Schultz Bruce, Coreil, Paul D., Hymel, Thomas M., Skinner, Patricia, Piazza, Fred, Wolcott, Maurice C.

News Release Distributed 05/26/11

LSU AgCenter mapping websites with localized flood and wind hazard information became inundated with inquiries from the public concerned about their property's vulnerability to rising water as the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers strain the levees.

The websites, which can be found at, had approximately 85,000 views for the week of May 10-17, according to Fred Piazza, LSU AgCenter chief information officer.

“The system was unable to handle the volume, and we had to double the memory to accommodate the higher-than-expected levels of traffic,” Piazza said, adding that the maps have been working well since.

The interactive online maps were developed for recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita to help people comply with the new statewide building codes. They were later adapted to help communities participate in the revision of new Flood Insurance Rate Maps, according to Pat Skinner, LSU AgCenter disaster recovery and mitigation specialist.

“We were amazed at how quickly people returned to these sites when the floods threatened,” Skinner said. “We’ve done everything we can to make sure visitors know how to use them correctly for estimating their vulnerability to an approaching flood. When it’s over and rebuilding begins, the maps and other recovery resources will be here to help them through that process.”

Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor for extension, said this was another instance of the LSU AgCenter and Sea Grant working together to help Louisiana residents during a crisis.

“This has allowed many to make informed evacuation plans and protect families, workers and property from potential damage from rising floodwaters,” Coreil said.

Maurice Wolcott, LSU AgCenter geographic information systems specialist who helped prepare information for the maps, cautioned users of the website that elevation data and river levels may not correspond. The flood elevation in the river at the gauge is not necessarily the elevation the water will be 100 yards or a few miles away from the gauge, he said, because the river elevations are taken within constrained environments.

LSU AgCenter experts also are helping state and local officials with the ongoing flood by devising maps to help plan for the worst-case scenarios.

Thomas Hymel, LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant watershed specialist, said he prepared a map for Louisiana State Police to show areas where water would likely flow in the event of a levee break along the Atchafalaya Basin.

“Nobody had a map with enough resolution to show the low spots in the roads,” Hymel said.

He said he also prepared a map for officials in St. Mary and Iberia parishes to show the likely flow of floodwaters if a levee breaks.

Wolcott also is preparing a map of farmland in the Morganza Spillway to show how crops were affected by floodwaters using satellite imagery from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help determine the extent of losses.

Henry “Paco” Cappello, LSU AgCenter systems analyst, designed the interactive websites, Piazza said. Cappello has been deployed by the Louisiana Army National Guard to help fight the flooding.

“The maps wouldn’t exist without him,” Piazza said.

Bruce Schultz

5/27/2011 1:57:21 AM
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