NC Floodplain Mapping


As populations surge along the North Carolina coast, conveying information about the possible effects of hurricanes and resulting floods becomes more critical. Detailed visualizations of storm impacts caused by hypothetical, but probable, hurricanes, can educate the public and decision makers about the impacts of tropical storms and resulting flooding and inundation.

RENCI has created numerous visualizations of flooding caused by storms, including visualizations of the 100-year floodplain, designed to increase knowledge about flooding risks in developed coastal areas. Visualizing and displaying various storm model results simultaneously helps in interpreting results and in developing better models that account for topography/terrain and bathymetry (the topography of the ocean floor), all factors that affect the extent of coastal flooding and inundation. In addition, overlaying the visual floodplain inundation models with geographic representations such as Google Earth provides a compelling visual message to residents who can pinpoint their homes, businesses and other landmarks.

This visualization shows the development over time of a hypothetical Hurricane Phran and the synchronization of models that measure different variables, such as storm surge, wave height and winds. Phran, like the real Hurricane Fran, made landfall on Sept. 6 1996 near Wilmington, N.C. The trajectories of the real and hypothetical storms are identical, but Phran’s strength has been increased to Category 4. The wind and pressure field from the wind model are shown in the top left panel. The center panel overlays the total storm surge onto an elevation model to illustrate the extent of flooding in Wilmington caused by Phran. Surrounding the central panel are the individual models of irregular waves near shore (SWAN) and water depth and current and wave growth and decay (Wave Watch 3) at different locations. The topographic and bathymetric representations in the models is based on recent high resolution light detection and ranging (LIDAR) surveys and ocean depth surveys.

Project Team

  • Jason Coposky
  • Brian Blanton
  • Kevin Gamiel