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Florida: Establishing a "High Water Marks Strike Team"

In July 2012, after Tropical Storm Debby, the Florida Silver Jackets team responded to the need for recording high water marks (HWMs) by developing a plan that calls for a HWM Strike Team and a central repository for collection and review.  The plan is expected to reduce costs and redundancies, increase expediencies, and produce a better product.

After significant flooding from a hurricane or a major storm event, it is important to collect accurate data rapidly in order to document the event; assist in the response, recovery, and mitigation; and improve disaster preparedness and prevention for future disasters. HWM data collection is an initial step in accurately documenting an event. 

These data help place the event within a historical context, improve estimates of current flood risks, and improve predictions about potential future flooding, allowing government, business, and citizens to pursue more informed mitigation projects.  Collection of site-specific high water data along rivers, lakes, bays, and coasts has numerous applications. Some of these include: estimating storm frequency and severity; assessing accuracy of the Flood Insurance Rate Maps; calibrating storm simulation models; and determining the depth of flooding for structures. 

Florida found that developing a HWMs plan is a good Silver Jackets collaboration project since multiple agencies can get involved in the identification, collection, analyses, storage, and use of the data. The team intends to have a plan in place for the next major flood event that will ensure consistent data collection throughout the state of Florida with a reasonable amount of standardization for access and storage. In advance of an event, there will also be a clear understanding of each agency’s data needs, applications, and level of involvement, as well as funding potential for plan implementation.