Savannah waterfront

In 2017, Hurricane Irma flooded parts of Savannah, Georgia, and many people evacuated. But once they’d left, they had trouble getting information about how bad the flooding was or if it was safe to go back.

“And part of that was because there was only historically one NOAA tide gauge reading water levels essentially on the entire Georgia coast, and certainly not at the neighborhood level or street level where we could see what was happening,” says Georgia Tech computer science researcher Russell Clark.

His team is working with city officials and Chatham County’s emergency management agency to fix that. They’ve installed about 50 low-cost sensors on bridges, docks, and canals.

“Our objective is to monitor as closely as we can and as extensively as we can the water levels across the Chatham County area, paying specific interest to critical infrastructure – things like bridges, roads, neighborhoods – the sorts of community resources that typically have not been well-monitored or well-observed,” Clark says.

The real-time data is available online. And as sea levels rise and storms become more extreme, it will guide emergency planning and response.

Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.