NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Tennessee Tech University student wants to make a difference by improving the way flash flooding is measured.
His work is inspired by the tragic 2017 incident at Cummins Falls in Cookeville where two swimmers died.
This summer marked six years since the swimmers were killed in flash flooding at Cummins Falls. Despite clear skies, a large crowd of swimmers were taken by surprise by a raging storm they didn’t know was approaching them upstream. The water rose six feet within a matter of minutes.
Since their deaths, flash flood sensors were installed at the park. Now, one Tennessee Tech student is conducting research to take safety measures a step further.
“Flooding is something we still have to be concerned about in most of these regions, especially here in Tennessee we get flooding all the time,” said Alex Brant, a senior geology student at Tennessee Tech.
Brant is tackling a project through tech’s creative inquiry summer experience grant program to help park rangers. It involves what’s known as infiltration measurements in the watershed that flows into Cummins Falls.
“This is the watershed that feeds into Cummins Falls and with my research, infiltration is the process of rainwater flowing into the ground, but this is important when it comes to understanding flooding events. So precipitation is that when it rains, if at any point if the rate of rainfall is greater than the rate that water is moving into the ground, we get runoff and that runoff gets into the streams and then causes flooding,” said Brant.
Infiltration is something that is only estimated based off of what soil groups in the region are like. With Brant’s research, those numbers are being studied to help improve sensors already in place at the falls.
“It uses two metal rings and we fill it up with water and we basically over a long period of time, usually over the span of an hour to an hour and a half, we basically watch the water move down. We take time measurements to see how fast this water is,” said Brant.
Brant said the ultimate goal of his work is to put his infiltration measurements into a watershed model system used by the Army. He hopes his work could help protect people in the future.
“I tend to get so focused on actually learning about this that I sit back sometimes and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is hard work, and this could actually save lives,'” said Brant.