Environmental Sensor Networks


Brunswick County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of North Carolina—and one of the most vulnerable to flash floods caused by hurricanes and storm surges. With its growing population, the county faces challenges when evacuating people, especially those with medical needs, before a hurricane or storm surge. Many roadways that connect to the county’s main evacuation route are prone to flooding and water levels have been monitored in the past by personal observation. RENCI and Brunswick County identified 14 sites along roadways in Brunswick County as both flood-prone and critical during evacuations. Eight were identified as high priority areas. These sites were equipped with a hybrid network of flood sensors by RENCI’s disaster research team to help Brunswick County emergency managers prepare and forecast flood disasters and monitor conditions during floods and evacuations.

RENCI installed and tested its prototype flood sensor system in order to understand what communication tools and types of sensors work best in alerting officials of rising water conditions. RENCI experts used a combination of commercial sensor and communications hardware and software, and customized it to meet the needs of the project. Each flood-prone site includes one or more flood sensors calibrated to the road surface. The sensors at each site connect to a base station containing a battery, microcomputer and communications equipment installed on higher ground. The sensors transmit data to the base stations and the base stations communicate that data back to the county’s emergency response center via a cellular network. When flood waters rise, the flood sensors can change how they operate together so the network can continue to monitor the situation even if some sensors are submerged in water. RENCI also installed weather stations within a few miles of each sensor site in order to improve forecasting in a county that lacks comprehensive radar coverage.


State of North Carolina

Project Team

  • Ken Gallupi, project leader
  • Ilia Baldine
  • Dan Bedard
  • Justin Burleson
  • Jim Mahaney
  • Jessica Proud
  • Erik Scott


  • UNC Wilmington
  • National Weather Service
  • Brunswick County Emergency Services