Ensuring public safety with real-time flood detection & road weather conditions
Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related fatalities nationwide, and Texas leads the country in both weather- and flood-related deaths. Bexar County, which is located in Central Texas and includes the city of San Antonio, is particularly vulnerable to flooding because storms stall along the Balcones Escarpment. In addition, its relatively dry climate and rolling hills create low water crossings that are highly susceptible to roadway flooding - earning this region the nickname “flash flood alley.”
Roy Alaquinez, Civil Engineering Assistant for the County of Bexar Public Works Department, has worked with High Sierra Electronics for over 10 years helping to reduce the risk to the public.
Overcoming operational challenges
With over 300 low water crossings, Bexar is one of the most frequently flooded communities in the United States. The absence of a reliable flash flood notification system for motorists has resulted in fatalities at flooded crossings. For the sake of public safety, the county needed a better way to prepare residents for roadway flooding and notify them when it was occurring. Without efficient flood alerting, Bexar County faced the following operational challenges:
1. NO DRIVER WARNING SYSTEM
The county was unable to notify motorists when flash floods were occurring at low water crossings.
2. MANUAL SITUATIONAL AWARENESS
County personnel had to manually deploy flood warning and road closure signage.
3. RESPONSE TIME INEFFICIENCY
Emergency personnel were frequently in dangerous situations due to lack of motorists awareness about flooded roads.
Solution: Adopting AEM technology
Since 2008, High Sierra Electronics has worked with Bexar County installing and maintaining our High Water Detection Systems (HWDS), which the county has locally named HALT (High-water Alert Lifesaving Technology). The HWDS uses a combination of rainfall and water level gauges to monitor conditions at low points on the roadways. This technology has offered Bexar County innovative solutions to improve motorist safety when flooding occurs on roadways.
AUTOMATED MOTORIST WARNINGS
When water rises to an unsafe level at low water crossings, sensors automatically trigger flashing beacons and/or barrier gates to alert motorists of danger.
IMPROVED RESPONSE TIME
Contrail software and HD PTZ Cameras use AI technology to provide real-time verification of accidents or endangered motorists, notifying emergency responders as needed.
REMOTE MONITORING & ALTERING
Operational staff receive text and email alerts when a system is activated to more efficiently monitor locations where drivers may need assistance.
High Water Detection in action
On May 1, 2021, Bexar County experienced a major road flooding event. The HWDS, integrated camera system, and Contrail software all captured the event as it developed, activating warning beacons, flashing signs, and safety gates to protect motorists on the flooding roadways. The High Sierra system ensured motorists were aware of conditions in the most dangerous places, keeping them safe in an efficient and timely way.
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