Down on the Levee

New app fine-tunes flood damage assessments for Ted Streckfuss and the Army Corps' Omaha District.

Army Corps of Engineers flood inspection teams used to scribble down detailed directions to where they'd found seepage in a levee or turbid water on the landward side of a dike. But times have changed for folks like Ted Streckfuss, deputy for project management for the Corps' Omaha District, which is responsible for inspecting a 250-mile section of levees along the Missouri River.

In the wake of the recent Missouri River floods that caused up to $1 billion in damage, those teams used a smartphone application that links damage reports with Global Positioning System markers and sends them back to the Omaha, Neb., headquarters instantaneously, says Streckfuss.

The Omaha District deploys five or six teams with about 25 smartphones along the river each day. Every report includes a GPS indicator, a picture or video of flood damage, and a text explanation.

Information from those reports goes into a digital map with thousands of pinpoints representing different pieces of data. The chart allows staff back in Omaha to make real-time determinations about the extent of flood damage and where to concentrate assessment teams in the coming days.

"It removes a lot of the unknowns," Streckfuss says. "When we go out and evaluate the system after the flood . . . We can go back to those thousands of data points and we don't have to guess was it mile marker 27 or 28?"

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