UH technology startup provides flood monitoring, real-time data in Maryland 

A new project will help protect coastal communities from the impacts of flooding around the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland thanks to Hohonu, Inc., a University of Hawaiʻi technology startup that provides environmental water level monitoring. The new water level sensors, grant-funded through the University of Maryland, will be part of a larger resilience strategy in the area. 

Flooding concerns and storm preparedness are part of a larger program with the University of Maryland, City of Annapolis, and Hohonu. The data collected with Hohonu’s low-cost sensors and software will track and measure flooding to inform emergency management, adaptation, and mitigation efforts.

“This is one of many projects that Hohonu is servicing on the east coast of the United States,” said Brian Glazer, Hohonu CEO and co-founder and oceanography associate professor at the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “We are working to provide solutions for a growing demand for real-time data in flood monitoring as we see increased frequency and intensity of storms and flooding. Just this year, our sensors have monitored three named storms and over 50 distinct flood events across our 80 east coast locations.” 

The project is a result of an initiative to bring together land, air, and water science. The goal is to learn how best to build resilience and create predictive models for more frequent and more intense flooding events. UH, a partial equity owner in the company, along with some local nonprofits, is a part of Hohonu’s mission to democratize access to ocean observing technologies.

“The health of the Chesapeake Bay is vital to the health of the Maryland economy but our coastal communities face increasing flood risks as sea levels rise,” said Timothy Canty, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science and director of the Maryland Marine Estuarine Environmental Sciences graduate program at the University of Maryland. “This project is the first step in providing the state with a larger network of water level monitors to help better allocate resources, prioritizing assistance for communities facing the most imminent risks.”

Hohonu plans to deploy up to 20 sensors in locations around the Chesapeake Bay that will provide vital information for the Annapolis City Dock. It will also help coastal communities, including Maryland’s capital city, to plan for future flood protection projects.

“Annapolis is ground zero for coastal flooding,” said Matthew Fleming, Executive Director for the Resilience Authority of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. “Through this initiative, the City will not only receive real-time, hyper-local data streams on water levels, but will have the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Canty and University experts on the development of decision support tools critical for emergency response and resilience planning.” 

Adding to the growing sensor network will also provide better resolution in the data and understanding across the state and entire U.S. eastern seaboard on flood frequency and impact. Annapolis is leading the way nationally with the preeminent historic coastal city plans by responding to an impending threat and adopting a proactive resiliency strategy. 

“During rush hour Wednesday April 24th, the City experienced a high tide that was 5 inches higher than had been predicted the day before,” said Burr Vogel, Director of Public Works for the City of Annapolis. “The unexpected flooding closed traffic on the Spa Creek bridge, creating major traffic problems throughout the city. Our flood barriers would have prevented this closure if they had been in place, but we didn’t have accurate data to help us help our residents. This project is arriving at just the right time.”

Read more on WTOP News and UH News.