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Overland Park's 'Stormwatch' network helps Johnson County plan for, react to flooding

Posted: 7:16 AM, May 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-01 12:16:27Z
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A network of sensors along creeks and roads in Johnson County help municipal leaders plan for and react to flooding during storm events.

Overland Park installed the first sensor in 1985 after a powerful flood in 1984. Over the past 30 years, the "Stormwatch" program has grown to 108 sensors throughout Johnson County. Managers with the county's stormwater management program said they're looking at the possibility of adding a new monitor along Indian Creek at Switzer Road.

Local governments collect real-time information like rainfall totals and creek levels from the sensors to make decisions as to whether to block roads or order evacuations due to flooding.

"We can't control, nor truly predict the amount or duration of a storm, but we can definitely monitor it to know how to act appropriately during it," said Lorraine Basalo, the acting city engineer in Overland Park who oversees the program.

Basalo said the National Weather Service uses three of the sensors to help forecasters determine whether to issue advisories versus warnings as severe weather approaches.

With each sensor able to feed back so much information, Basalo said Overland Park wants to be more efficient in how the city turns the information into action.

"We're finding ways that can automate that interpretation to make it quicker during storms because that's the most important thing, to be on top of that data and try to understand what could happen if it continues to rain," she said.

Besides being along the creek, other monitors in the Stormwatch network keep track of road conditions and the temperature of the air and pavement. Overland Park uses that information to come up with a plan of attack when it's time to plow snow.

The data from the sensors is available to anyone online. Basalo said people such as gardeners, consultants, engineers and students all use it. To see the data yourself, click here.