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A Data-Driven Approach to Pittsburgh Regional Flooding: A Path Forward

The problems of urban flooding in the Pittsburgh region are two-fold: 1.) a lack of useful data around the issue and 2.) a need for better regional coordination and planning. A significant limitation in analyzing flood losses is that communities are only eligible for some programs when a federal disaster declaration has been made by the president, a method that favors larger, more costly events. Thus, smaller chronic flood events or flooding in less affluent neighborhoods may not be captured. This presentation will demonstrate a novel approach to using Twitter data for extracting incidence reports and mapping flooding locations in Allegheny County. We will then use the Saw Mill Run Valley as a case study to demonstrate how to use this data to understand flooding hotspots and associated rainfall patterns for future flood mitigation and planning purposes. Decades of studies on Saw Mill Run, and most recently an Integrated Watershed Management Plan, have spotlighted the need to address the many negative impacts of stormwater runoff, including flooding, on the surrounding neighborhoods and communities. Using this innovative methodology to capture more nuanced and finer grained data will help to shape a comprehensive regional strategy for creating a more equitable, collaborative, and cohesive approach to successful flood mitigation.