Hays County’s new grant-funded flood warning system is to be completed this summer and begin improving research and emergency services during one of the county’s biggest threats – flooding.
On Oct. 30 of last year, Hays County commissioners approved a project that would involve paying for half of the cost of four flood warning systems across the county. The other half of the project was covered by a $142,000 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) grant. The county matched TWDB’s grant amount.
The project was part of a larger, $417,477 initiative partnered with Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that covered funding for HazMat services and upgrades, and an emergency command vehicle.
At the time, Kharley Smith, Hays County emergency services director, called the grants imperative, as the county’s emergency services team supplies aid and resources to the surrounding region as well as Hays County.
The flood warning technology, according to staff, will directly impact citizens. Justin McInnis, assistant director of emergency services, said the technology is a system of four flood meters and cameras that will monitor water and its rising. The recorded information will be available to citizens online at haysinformed.com.
“We are able to automate alerts to citizens and update in real time as roads are closing,” McInnis said. “We couldn’t do that before. It helps residents, first responders and school systems. The information goes to dispatchers and they are able to lock down roads quicker.”
The county’s technology will also be reporting information to the National Weather Service, which will allow for scientific research and reporting on the county’s flooding tendencies.
McInnis said the systems will also allow emergency services to act significantly quicker to make sure residents are safe before a flood is out of control or when a road needs to be closed down.
“First responders and police will be able to work more proactively,” McInnis said. “Take Lime Kiln Road. It’s a one-way. Now we can prepare to protect that area’s residents during a flood event and let them know when an event is coming sooner than later.”
Before the implementation of this new system, McInnis said the county used a single stream gauge, which is a more affordable system that must be checked manually. The gauge allows the reader to determine how much a water level has risen or lowered each time they manually check it.
The new system reports to the Hays County WETMap which is available on haysinformed.com and updates in realtime. Citizens can access the website for free, sign up for alerts and choose to view specific low-water crossings.