NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Officials with the Tennessee Department of Military asked Gov. Bill Lee for $5 million to fund flood preparedness tools, including building a network of weather stations in every county that constantly measure and report rain fall, wind speed, and more, called a mesonet system.
Right now, the National Weather Service in Nashville uses weather monitors located at the state’s six airports to measure precipitation, in addition to volunteers with the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), who measure precipitation and send back data once per day.
“We really need a lot more data when we are in the thick of it with severe weather and winter weather to know how much precipitation is actually falling,” the National Weather Service of Nashville’s meteorologist in charge, Krissy Hurley, said.
During a budget hearing last week, state officials mentioned how a mesonet system likely would have provided much earlier alerts during the deadly 2021 Waverly flood, potentially saving lives.
“We would’ve known much earlier. The amount of rainfall was constructed months after based on other gauges, so it would’ve given us a single point, real time measurement of rainfall that could’ve warned us about flash flooding,” Patrick Sheehan, director of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, said.
Hurley told News 2 during the Waverly flood, a CoCoRaHS volunteer sent rain measurements back to the National Weather Service Nashville office every hour, which meteorologists used to confirm information estimated by the doppler radar.
“As you can imagine, that was so much rainfall in such a little time, something that we haven’t really seen in Middle Tennessee ever, and it set state records,” Hurley said. “Having a real time observation in those locations in every single county would really help the National Weather Service make decisions in real time that can be the difference between life and death.”
Part of the $5 million would also go toward creating new flood models for every county by studying how water moves through each area. These models could potentially replace the 100-year and 500-year floodplain maps which many believe are outdated and inaccurate.