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The Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning (CI-FLOW) project is a demonstration project that predicts the combined effects of coastal and inland floods for coastal North Carolina. CI-FLOW captures the complex interaction between rainfall, river flows, waves, and tides and storm surge, and how they will impact ocean and river water levels.

CI-FLOW is motivated by NOAA’s critical forecast need for detailed water level predictions in coastal areas. Coastal flooding threatens more than half the nation’s population. Storms cause coastal flooding when water from the ocean is driven onto land by wind, tides, waves and storm surge. The severity of these floods can increase when intense rain falls upstream on coastal rivers influenced by tides and surge. CI-FLOW simulates the combined effects of coastal and inland floods.

In response to the devastation in North Carolina left by Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd in 1999, a diverse team of national, regional, state and university partners formed CI-FLOW with a united goal to improve total water level forecasts. Storm surge and coastal flooding killed 52 people and destroyed 7,000 homes. The area received 20-25 inches of rain over 10 days, causing rivers to crest up to 24 feet above flood stage. The storm surge was measured as high as 13 feet. Additional widespread impacts on the region included livestock and pet evacuations, water pollution from farm animal waste management sites, and backwater flooding due to inadequate bridge design. CI-FLOW focuses on the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river basins of coastal Carolina and the adjacent coastal waters and shorelines of the Pamlico Sound, the areas hit hardest by the effects of the 1999 hurricanes.

CI-FLOW Fact Sheet — a brief overview of the project, written in layperson's language (.pdf, 2 MB, updated 12 Jun 2013)

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NOAA nowCOAST display

NOAA's nowCOAST Offsite link warning is a GIS-based web mapping portal providing integrated, one-stop access to on-line, real-time coastal environmental observations and NOAA forecasts for any region in the coastal United States. NowCOAST provides users with displays of the latest surface weather and ocean observations, satellite cloud imagery, weather radar reflectivity mosaics, sea surface temperature analyses and gridded forecasts.

CI-FLOW on NOAA nowCOAST Offsite link warning


Irene to be test for experimental flood forecasting system

Hurricane Ike, 2008

Hurricane Floyd, 1999

As Hurricane Irene churns towards the U.S. coast, residents of coastal North Carolina have a new flood forecasting research tool to help them prepare for the expected deluge.

NOAA researchers lead the Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning (CI-FLOW) project, a total water level prediction system in North Carolina. CI-FLOW is the first system to capture the complex interaction between waves, tides, river flows, and storm surge to produce total water level simulations. NOAA forecasters will use CI-FLOW to help make more accurate flood and flash flood forecasts, helping coastal and inland communities react, respond, and recover.

The NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory leads CI-FLOW’s unique interdisciplinary team that includes local, state, regional, academic, and federal partners, emergency managers, and outreach and education specialists. The CI-FLOW system is focused on the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse river basins of North Carolina but the goal is to expand CI-FLOW research and technologies to other U.S. coastal watersheds.

The CI-FLOW system routinely collects weather, river, tide and ocean observations to be used in an interactive exchange between atmospheric, river and ocean models. Researchers and forecasters can access real-time simulations of coastal water levels for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season on a secure website.

The CI-FLOW project addresses a critical NOAA service gap: routine total water level predictions for tidally-influenced watersheds; and has a vision to transition CI-FLOW research findings and technologies to other U.S. coastal watersheds. This real-time demonstration will offer valuable insight on the accuracy and utility of total water level predictions for communities in the coastal plain of the Tar-Pamlico and Neuse Rivers and the Pamlico Sound.

The system is used by National Weather Service Forecast Offices in North Carolina and South Carolina, as well as the NWS Southeast River Forecast Center. Additional NOAA partners include NOAA Sea Grant College Program, North Carolina and South Carolina Sea Grant Programs, NWS Office of Hydrologic Development, NOAA Coastal Services Center, NOAA in the Carolinas, NOAA National Ocean Service Coast Survey Development Laboratory, and Texas Sea Grant.

CI-FLOW News archive