Austin explores cell phone alerts for flooded roads

A state grant will help Austin upgrade the ATXfloods website.
A state grant will help Austin upgrade the ATXfloods website. (ATXFloods Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A state board approved $3.5 million in grant funding Thursday for communities across Texas. The money is meant to better prepare the state for future flooding. In Austin, the funds could help develop cell phone notifications that activate when drivers approach flooded roads.

A KXAN Investigation last fall revealed a financial snag that could have kept the $6.8 million for disaster planning out of Texans’ hands. Now, communities are getting access to that money. Part of those funds were awarded Thursday by the Texas Water Development Board. Austin will be getting $96,633 and the city will be matching with roughly $100,000 of its own. The money is for the ATXfloods website, which tracks the status of flood-prone bridges and streets in central Texas.

“The public, when they go to the website, it will refresh faster. It will move a lot faster,” said Kevin Shunk, floodplain administrator for the city of Austin.

Shunk says the city could also use the money for other upgrades to the site, such as the cell phone alerts. A member of the water development board said the proposal would warn drivers when they are within 1,000 feet of a closed low water crossing. However, the city is now trying to see if and how it might achieve creating such alerts with the given funds. It’s one possibility out of several options for upgrading ATXfloods.

“Our next step is sitting down with a programmer specifically talking about things we’re interested in doing with the site and how possible those might be,” said Shunk.

Other communities also received money through the Texas Water Development Board. Here is the list the board provided Thursday:

  • Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District – $265,150 for an early warning system
  • Cameron County Drainage District No. 5 – $112,500 for an early warning system, flood response, and flood protection planning
  • Cameron County Drainage District No. 1 – $187,500 for an early warning system
  • Central Texas Council of Governments – $231,019 for an early warning system, flood response, and flood protection planning
  • City of Austin – $96,633.14 for an early warning system
  • City of Beaumont – $287,000 for an early warning system and flood protection planning
  • City of Buda – $292,890 for an early warning system
  • City of Fort Worth – $247,378 for an early warning system and flood response
  • City of Leon Valley – $11,309.86 for an early warning system
  • City of Sealy – $14,430 for an early warning system
  • Guadalupe Blanco River Authority – Caldwell County – $70,688 for an early warning system
  • Guadalupe Blanco River Authority – Hays County – $37,406 for an early warning system
  • Harris County Flood Control District – $250,000 for an early warning system, flood response, and flood protection planning
  • Hays County – $500,000 for an early warning system and flood response
  • North Central Texas Council of Governments – $159,096 for an early warning system
  • San Jacinto River Authority – $460,000 for an early warning system, flood response, and flood protection planning
  • Uvalde County – $277,000 for an early warning system

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