Floods have long had a major impact on society and the environment, evidenced by the more than 1,500 federal disaster declarations since 1952 that were associated with flooding. Calendar year 2011 was an epic year for floods in the United States, from the flooding on the Red River of the North in late spring to the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri River basin floods in the spring and summer to the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene along the eastern seaboard in August. As a society, we continually seek to reduce flood impacts, with these efforts loosely grouped into two categories: mitigation and risk awareness. Mitigation involves such activities as flood assessment, flood control implementation, and regulatory activities such as storm water and floodplain ordinances. Risk awareness ranges from issuance of flood forecasts and warnings to education of lay audiences about the uncertainties inherent in assessing flood probability and risk. This paper concentrates on the issue of flood risk awareness, specifically the importance of hydrologic data and good interagency communication in providing accurate and timely flood forecasts to maximize risk awareness. The 2011 floods in the central United States provide a case study of the importance of hydrologic data and the value of proper, timely, and organized communication and collaboration around the collection and dissemination of that hydrologic data in enhancing the effectiveness of flood forecasting and flood risk awareness.
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Flood risk awareness during the 2011 floods in the central United States: showcasing the importance of hydrologic data and interagency collaboration