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Your photos of stop signs could help build better flood maps

Texas A&M researchers say by taking a simple picture of a stop sign, you could help build better flood maps.

HOUSTON — When Houston’s high and dry, it’s hard to remember exactly how much a neighborhood floods.

“You ask five different people in the same apartment complex, how high did it flood? You will get five different answers," said Matthew Marchetti, co-founder of Crowd Source Rescue.

It's a volunteer group that formed during Hurricane Harvey and is one of several organizations partnering with Texas A&M University on a new app called BluPix.

“Is the floodwater 2 feet, is it 6 feet? There’s a big difference between those 2 numbers, because it’s the difference between a truck and a boat," said Marchetti, explaining why the app will be helpful to citizen first responders.

Researchers at Texas A&M say most people don’t know where the nearest flood gauge is, but they can find the closest stop sign. They say by taking a simple picture of it, you could help build better flood maps.

“Basically, we are trying to turn regular traffic signs into low tech flood sensors," said associate professor  Dr. Amir Behzadan.

Because stop signs across the United States are the same uniform height, the app is able to determine how high the flood waters are in the picture. The two year project is being funded by a grant through the N.O.A.A.

“Everybody can go there, log in and upload their photos, and then once the photos are uploaded, other people can go and log in and pair them with pre-flood photos," Dr. Behzadan said.

Crowd Source Rescue said they’ll be able to use the pictures in real time to dispatch volunteers the next time Houston gets a storm.

“In the end of the day it helps save more lives, if we can get first responders better and faster information, more people live post floods and post hurricanes," Marchetti said.

For more information on the app or to upload pictures of stop signs in your neighborhood, click here.

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