Coastal Flooding & Solutions, Workshop Case Studies

Smart Sea Level Sensors in Chatham County, Georgia

Location: Savannah and Chatham County, Georgia

Submitted By: Kim M. Cobb - Professor, Georgia Tech

Project URLs:

Project Description

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. Recent brushes with Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Hurricane Irma in 2017 saw storm surges of 4+ feet at the county’s only two tide gauges, shutting down county schools and businesses for days. During these extreme weather events, strong winds interacted with an extremely intricate network of coastal rivers, tributaries, and marshlands to create a complex pattern of flooding that varied by 1-2ft across the county. The “Smart Sea Level Sensor Project” has installed a network of 43 low-cost, internet-enabled water level sensors to date across flood-vulnerable Chatham County, via a working partnership between officials from the Chatham Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) and the City of Savannah, together with a diverse team of scientists and engineers from Georgia Tech. The sensors relay data back to 12 gateway devices via LoraWAN technology over ranges of 1-5 miles. The sensor network spans a wide range of tributary sizes, orientation, and building densities, and data are currently provided via an API, and n public data portal is under development. The sensor data are complemented by a high-resolution coastal ocean model that integrates weather forecasts to produce 3-day forecasts of coastal flooding at 10m resolution. Targeted curriculum development in middle school Earth Science classes as well as high school Engineering classes help area students engage with the data in the context of coastal flooding and ongoing sea level rise. Taken together, the framework enables the assessment of short- and long-term coastal flooding risk and vulnerability that are required to inform planning for flood mitigation strategies in Chatham County and other coastal communities across the southeastern US.

Key Successes

45 real-time water level sensors installed; 3-day operational forecasts available; 6th grade curriculum designed and distributed; high school engineering curriculum on sensor assembly designed and executed.


Funding is our biggest challenge right now.

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