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The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Computational Enhancements for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Regional River Severe Storm Model: Phase II
Mohamed M. Morsy, Ph.D., Yawen Shen, Daniel Voce, Gina L. O’Neil, Jonathan L. Goodall, Ph.D., P.E.
Year: 2019
VTRC No.: 19-R24

Climate change is projected to increase the risk of flooding, which can cause severe damage and threaten lives. This increased risk makes it even more important to accurately forecast potential flooding impacts. The report details efforts by the University of Virginia to enhance key aspects of the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Regional River Severe Storm Model (R2S2) that aims to forecast potential flooding impacts in real-time for transportation infrastructure. This model serves as a planning tool for a large portion of the Hampton Roads District to assist residency administrators in efficiently allocating scarce resources to close roads and to assist first responders in accessing flood prone areas.

In this study, researchers first designed and implemented methods to improve the accuracy of R2S2 and reassessed the model against the stream data for two different storm events. The calibrated model shows good predictive capability for the majority of the study region, while the easternmost portion of the watershed, which has very flat terrain, remains the most difficult region to model accurately. The final task included automation of the cloud-based system that can provide end-to-end automation of flood warning for bridges and culverts in the region.The system is now available for implementation by VDOT for use during extreme weather events.

The study recommends that VTRC brief executives in the Department of Natural Resources on the work accomplished to date on R2S2.  The briefing should include the capabilitiesof the current model, its current limitations, and potential modifications that could improve the model.  In the spring of 2019, the Governor and the General Assembly determined that coordinated state agency research activities in the areas of climate change, sea level rise, roadway flooding attributable to storm surge, and roadway management strategies in flooding events are desirable. The Department of Natural Resources has been identified as the lead agency for these initiatives; the study’s recommendation reflects that new interagency approach.