Six Other Flood Questions You’ll Want Answered: DiviningLAB


Flood is the most expensive natural hazard in the US. A warmer climate, more extreme weather events, and poorly resolved data from FEMA are a costly mix. NPR recently ran the story: "Moving? Six Questions to Ask about Flood Risk in a Changing Climate." The questions are a good start for more informed home buyers. For developers, insurers, cities, engineering, planning, and design firms, here are six more questions that matter.

1. Our property [community/portfolio/critical infrastructure] is not on a river or coastal flood plain--its in a city; is it at risk?

The flood peril most difficult to model and most costly to get wrong is rain, particularly as it falls on complex metropolitan areas. As the World Bank notes in Cities and Flooding (Jha, Block, Lamond 2012), urban floods are distinct from river, storm surge, and coastal floods. Urban floods are more costly and difficult to manage; impact higher concentrations of population and assets; and cause damages and disruptions that are more intense and more costly. Harvey is a good example: AON estimates Houston's losses to Harvey at $125 billion, driven principally by rain-triggered flooding (not the wind or storm surge most of us generally associate with hurricanes).

Our focus at DiviningLAB is urban rain. We build on our domain expertise in design of the built environment--the architecture and landscapes of cities ---to fill that critical modeling gap. By modeling city rain in a way that is precise---and actionable--our goal is not just to close insurance gaps, it is to close physical risk gaps. Our platform, Hazel, is interoperable with river, storm surge and sea level models.

2. What will happen on our property or portfolio when it rains?

The purpose of most flood models is to estimate probability. Probabilistic models tell you the likelihood of whether rain events of a certain size might happen on your property. We went a different route: deterministic modeling. With full 2D hydrodynamics, our purpose is to tell you what will happen. HazelFLOOD gives a true (certain, physical) description of rain’s behavior on your property [community/portfolio/assets/infrastructures] in any given event or range of events. The result is pinpoint accuracy, down to a half-meter or the size of a bbq.

3. From an afternoon rain shower to a catastrophic rain event, what do we need to know?

Running a deterministic model on a site, or complex network of sites, allows users to plug in any scenario and get answers. A rain event that is catastrophic for one property may leave its adjacent neighbor unscathed. A summer shower may cripple a central business district. Precision matters.

4. How will our neighborhood streets, our company's loading docks, or city's evacuation routes be effected?

No description of risk on a property is complete without context: how will the supportive critical infrastructures we depend on--highways, cell towers, treatment plants-- perform under stress? HazelFLOOD incorporates existing stormwater infrastructures to give a true picture of an urban environment's flood preparedness, and vulnerabilities, street by street, property by property.

5. Where should we take steps to make our property or community safer?

Whether at the scale of an individual address or across a complex urban watershed, a deterministic model tells you exactly where investment in physical flood mitigation is crucial--and where its not. Use Hazel to prioritize strategic, effective flood solutions, faster.

6. Am I paying too much?

Whichever side of the equation you are on: imprecise risk is mispriced risk. Deterministic precision enhances the intel of probabilistic tools, providing a clearer picture of when, where, and how to avoid losses, boost creditworthiness, and negotiate with confidence.

As a society facing a warming climate and changing hydrologic sphere, we are racing to close gaps in public awareness, resilience financing, and physical safeguards. Hazel can help.