FLASH system transitioned to the National Weather Service, revolutionizes tools used for flash flood forecasting

The FY2013 Disaster Assistance Supplemental provided support for the project titled “Develop Improved Predictions of Inland Flooding”, which was led by the the late Prof. Peter Lamb, CIMMS Director, and myself. FLASH, being a component of the broader MRMS project, was transitioned to NCEP with MRMS v11 in November 2016 for experimental use. To date , over half of local NWS offices throughout the U.S. are receiving FLASH products into their operational AWIPS2 systems. During the week of July 2, FLASH products will be disseminated to all NWS offices in the lower 48 states via the Satellite Broadcast Network. This completes a major milestone for the team!

 The success of FLASH was largely attributed to the number of graduate students, post-docs, and research scientists who contributed and the NWS forecasters who participated and provided valuable feedbacks during the HMT-Hydro testbed experiments from 2014-2016. Throughout the project, the team published 12 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 4 of which were in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. The FLASH project resulted in 7 graduate students earning Ph.D.s, 1 earning an M.S., and supported numerous visiting student interns. 

While we have reached this major milestone, we continue to develop. FLASH is being reframed into a fully probabilistic framework, called Pro-FLASH. This consideration of uncertainty in the modeling process accommodates forcings from ensemble precipitation forecasts. This can increase the lead time with the distributed hydrologic forecasts, but must consider the associated uncertainties with the forcings. We are also developing FLASH products for our outer-CONUS domains including Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, and the Caribbean. Lastly, we are forging relationships in the private sector so that FLASH can assist in operations related to transportation and beyond.


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Zac Flamig and JJ Gourley’s proposal to develop an app for identifying flash flood “hotspots” awarded at AGU annual meeting

Optimizing Local Thresholds for Flash Flood Prediction

A student led project, Zachary Flamig and his advisor Jonathan Gourley, submitted FLASH (Flooded Locations And Simulated Hydrographs) – a project that leverages existing technologies, resources, infrastructure and relationships to address critical data, knowledge and assessment gaps that will enhance the effectiveness of flood response and mitigation strategies

The Thriving Earth Exchange (TEX) and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are collaborating to use cloud-computing and Earth and space science to advance solutions to community challenges related to natural resources, climate change and natural hazards.

Winners Receive:

  • $15,000 in grant funds to use AWS on-demand cloud services.
  • Free registration to attend the annual 2015 AGU Fall Meeting, an Earth and space science conference attracting over 24,000 attendees. Assistance and direction in highlighting the project to enable adaptation by other communities and increase broader impact.



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GIS Day Poster Contest Award

Race Clark and his GIS day poster.
Race Clark and his GIS day poster.

Graduate student and PhD candidate Race Clark (OU/CIMMS) won 3rd place at the 2015 OU GIS Day poster contest held November 17, 2015 in Norman, OK. His poster was titled “Processing Topographical Data for Hydrological Modeling”, which presented a new software tool for speeding up topographical preprocessing for hydrological models. This software tool is primarily designed for use during international capacity building workshops. His coauthor on the poster is fellow graduate student and PhD candidate Zac Flamig (OU/CIMMS). Both students are advised by Drs. J.J. Gourley (NOAA/NSSL) and Yang Hong (OU Civil and Environmental Engineering).

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National Weather Association Poster Contest Winners

Galateia Terti with her award winning NWA poster
Galateia Terti with her award winning NWA poster

Continuing a strong 2015 conference showing by students in the FLASH group, Race Clark and Galateia Terti won 1st and 2nd place respectively in the graduate student poster contest at the 40th Annual Meeting of the National Weather Association. The annual meeting was held October 17th-22nd in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Race’s poster was titled “Towards Hazard Services Recommenders for Flash Flood Forecasting” while Galateia presented “Target the warnings: Probabilistic flash flood casualties prediction.”

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Manab Wins SEJ Poster Contest Award

Manabendra Saharia, Ph.D. student in CEES/ARRC, won 1st place in the graduate student poster contest at the Society of Environmental Journalism (SEJ) 25th Annual Conference. The conference was held in Norman, Oklahoma from October 7th-11th, 2015. Manab’s poster focused on his work to identify the basins in the US with the fastest rainfall-runoff response.

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FLASH Case Study on the Blanco River

On the evening of May 23rd into the early morning of May 24th, 2015 the Blanco River in Texas experienced a significant flooding event resulting in the closure of I-35 north & southbound near the city of San Marcos, TX. There were also multiple high-water rescues in the area including helicopter rescues of victims trapped in houses. The Hays County jail in Texas was also evacuated due to threatening flood waters. The FLASH development system was running for this event producing products forecasting & monitoring the flooding in near real time.

The storm total MRMS QPE shows 6-8” over the headwaters of the Blanco River catchment. The MRMS QPE to FFG ratio product shows exceedance of 160-180%.
FLASH products from May 24th, 2015 02 UTC over the Blanco River catchment. The storm total MRMS QPE shows 6-8” over the headwaters of the Blanco River catchment. The MRMS QPE to FFG ratio product shows exceedance of 160-180%.

Traditional rainfall based products including the rainfall accumulation and the ratio of rainfall to flash flood guidance highlight a large area northwest of San Marcos for flooding impacts. The storm system produced 6-8″ of rain over the region to the northwest resulting in exceedance of flash flood guidance by 160-180%.

FLASH CREST Maximum Streamflow and Maximum Unit Streamflow for May 24th, 2015 02 UTC.
FLASH CREST maximum streamflow and maximum unit streamflow for May 24th, 2015 02 UTC over the Blanco River catchment.

The FLASH hydrologic model based products correctly show the heavy rainfall being concentrated into the rivers and the downstream flooding impacts in San Marcos resulting from the heavy rainfall to the northwest of the region.

FLASH QPE to FFG ratio and CREST unit streamflow for May 24th, 2015 07 UTC.
FLASH QPE to FFG ratio and CREST unit streamflow for May 24th, 2015 07 UTC over the Blanco River catchment.


  1. This was a very heavy rainfall event that was captured well by MRMS radar-only estimates
  2. The flash flood guidance product indicated significant exceedance over threshold values, but the areas of concern were limited to the headwaters of the Blancos river
  3. The distributed hydrologic model forecasts better refined the threat area to the Blancos river and provided several hours of lead time
  4. This event clearly highlights the need to account for overland flow and routing, displacing the impacts well downstream of the causative rainfall
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