Coastal flooding represents a growing threat to the City of Savannah and adjoining areas in Chatham County, which are home to diverse communities rich with cultural heritage and thriving economies.
The Smart Sea Level Sensors project is a partnership between Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) officials, City of Savannah officials, and Georgia Tech scientists and engineers who are working together to install a network of internet-enabled sea level sensors across Chatham County. The real-time data on coastal flooding will be used for emergency planning and response.
The Smart Sea Level Sensors Project is one of four projects under the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge. The strategies developed by the selected communities are meant to serve as models that could be implemented elsewhere to advance smart technology and improve community well-being across Georgia.
What is the goal of the project?
The main goal of the project is to provide real-time information about water levels across Chatham County to aid in emergency planning and response during episodes of flooding associated with storms, king tides, and other environmental events. The sea level data also provide a unique and important dataset to aid scientists, engineers, and regional planners in quantifying the short- and long-term risks associated with continued sea level rise.
Who is involved in the project?
The project team includes Georgia Tech researchers, officials from Chatham County Emergency Management (CEMA), and officials from the City of Savannah. Drs. Kim Cobb and Russ Clark head up the Georgia Tech team, Randall Mathews represents CEMA, and Nick Deffley (Director, Office of Sustainability) represents the City of Savannah.
What is the current status of the project?
As of August 9, 2018, the team has installed 3 sea levels sensors that communicate with 3 base stations at locations on Tybee Island, Whitemarsh Island, and Wilmington Island.
How do the sensors measure sea level?
The sensors use the roundtrip travel time of ultrasonic waves to measure the distance from the sensor to the water level. They log measurements every ten minutes, enabling their batteries to last one year or longer.
What interesting signals have the sensors captured thus far?
The sensors captured the king tide event on August 10, 2018, with the different sensor registering high tides that differed by as much as 1 foot in height and by as much as 40 minutes in the timing of peak tidal height.
While Hurricane Florence did not make a direct hit on the coast of Georgia, we did register some departures from normal tidal heights and timing, owing to the sustained winds along the coast over those days. On the front side of Florence, sensors registered 3-4” higher tidal heights, and on the back end they registered a full foot lower than predicted. As with the king tide, the specific timing of the high and low tides during those times were 30-40 minutes different than predicted.
Where are future sensor deployments planned, and how are they decided?
Near-term priorities for sensor placement include a range of different coastal environments in Chatham County, along the canals that run through the City of Savannah, and further inland, sensors to measure the level of rainwaters that accumulate in flood-prone areas. The specific location of sensors will be determined by the project team, as they identify city, county, and in some cases privately owned installation sites that provide the proper mounting environment. For the sea level sensors, deployment on bridges is optimal, as those represent critical infrastructure that emergency responders must monitor in real-time, to aid coastal evacuation efforts as well as safe recovery efforts.
What else could sensors measure?
We are excited to pilot temperature sensors throughout Chatham County, to aid the community in monitoring urban heat islands, as well as ocean temperatures. But the sensor technology could be used to measure dozens of different environmental indicators of relevance to community health and safety.
How is the project funded?
The project is one of four Georgia Smart Communities grants that provided funding for Georgia Tech researchers to partner with communities across Georgia to advance community well-being through the application of smart technology. Funding for the Georgia Smart Communities initiative comes from a consortium of public and private funders, listed here.
How long will this project last?
The first phase of this project will last until August, 2019. However, the project is pursuing a variety of additional funding avenues to enable the project’s near-term growth and continued development. This includes a range of federal, state, and local sources of funding.
How can I get involved?
We are interested in hearing from the following community members:
Please sign up for the Smart Sea Level Sensor newsletter for updates on the project and information about future opportunities to get involved.
We will have our third public meeting to discuss project updates and answer questions.
Aug 23, 2018
A unique partnership in Chatham County plans to keep you and your home safer when the next storm hits. "This is really to help the community get through these events faster and quicker," said Kim Cobb, director of the Global Change Program and professor at Georgia Tech.
Aug 21, 2018
Georgia Tech Senior Research Scientist Russ Clark and Chatham County Emergency Management Coordinator Randall Mathews recently deployed the first components of a new network of Internet-enabled sea level sensors to gather data about local weather events as the initial part of the Smart Communities Challenge with Georgia Tech, Chatham County and the City of Savannah.
Jun 29, 2018
A new project funded in part by Georgia Tech will deploy 20 sea level sensors around the county to get a better handle on flooding. The sensors will give real-time data during the storm, aiding emergency response. They’ll also allow researchers to better predict flood risk around the county in the face of sea level rise.
Jun 12, 2018
Four Georgia communities developed and will implement smart design solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the state. The projects, which tackle housing, traffic congestion, sea level rise and shared autonomous vehicles, are supported through the Georgia Smart Communities Challenge.