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Unlocking Twitter and High-Resolution Radar Rainfall to Better Understand Urban Flooding

Hey flood blog readers, remember that blog post about Twitter and flooding data I wrote over a year ago way back in September of 2019?

Ah yes… September 2019… those were the days. My mind harkens back to those distant far off memories when life was so grand, so simple, and so care free. The joyous events that went on in 2019 almost feel like a distant impossible dream right now….

(wavy lines and doo-loo-loo doo-loo-loo sound effects transporting us back to September 2019)

The scene: You (the reader), me, and my fake buddy Dave created for this fake story are all sitting at common high top table at Mad Mex having a few laughs and happy hour drinks after a long day at work. Our waiter, Jasper, is a slender darkly brown haired 20 something male with a ridiculous bar handle mustache.

Jasper: Hi my name is Jasper. I will be helping you with your orders today. I see you already got drinks at the bar. Can I get you any food to start while you look over your menus?

Tom: Hi Jasper. Sweet mustache. We would would like some salsa, chips, and guacamole for the table to share. Please place them all into single bowls which we will all share. No worries about separating the chips and dips by each individual person. Each of us will just reach our dominant hand into the bowls and dip at our own risk and at our own leisure. (Tom raises both hands and points with his left hand to his dominant right hand in the style of Vanna White and explains further) If the tips of our fingers and/or knuckles accidentally touch the other chips and dip contents it’s no big deal. We will continue eating them like nothing happened.

Jasper: Um… yeah, that’s the standard way we provide these things in 2019, sir. No need to be that specific with how we prepare our bowls, chips and dips and your personal hand sharing acumen. Be right back. (Jasper leaves the scene and under his breath utters to himself as he walks away)… What a weirdo.

Tom: Hey fake buddy Dave, can I get a small but yet very brief sip of your fancy 10 dollar craft double IPA cask barrel aged craft beer? I’d like to give it a try before I consider purchasing this ridiculously expensive and pretentious beer for myself. Don’t worry, it’s only a very small volume of beer that my delicate yet supple lips will be touching the rim of your glass and the contents of your liquid beer. Furthermore, the time it will take will only last approximately 1.6 seconds. That’s not nearly enough time to transfer my mouth germs to your glass, beer and eventually back to your mouth after I give you back the beer.

Fake buddy Dave: Wow thanks for the warning Tom. That was, um, very specific information. I really appreciate that. Sure thing, feel free to take a longer than a 1.6 second sip if you want as well. I 100% trust your hygiene and your lack of coughing and sneezing indicates that you have no potential illnesses present in your body. (Dave hands Tom the beer)

Tom: Thanks Dave. (Tom takes out his runners stop watch and times his sip of beer in 1.3 seconds)… Jeez this beer is really terrible, Dave. But here’s your $10 beer back 100% germ free and under 1.6 seconds as promised. See the time on my stopwatch? (Tom shows Dave and casually puts stopwatch back in his pocket like nothing happened.)

You (the reader): (sarcastically) Hey Tom, you are a weirdly strange guy with these explanations of food and beverage sharing hygiene protocols. Have you been transported from the future and know something we don’t? (You and Dave proceed to have a nice laugh at my expense.)

Tom: It’s funny you should mention blog reader. Why yes…. Yes I am…. And I’m here to tell each of you that you must enjoy these moments while you still have them! (Tom proceeds to gently put his hand onto your’s and fake buddy Dave’s hands and Tom looks deeply into each of your eyes. You and Dave look at each other freaked out and now are considering ending the evening short with a made up excuse.) I want you to listen closely at what I’m about to tell you… It’s very important… You must cherish this care free moment together with these delicious shared chips and dips…. (Tom is now squeezing very hard on each of your hands to the point of pain.) …CHERISH IT!

(wavy lines and doo-loo-loo doo-loo-loo sound effects transporting us back to 2020)

Oh how I miss 2019… those really were the days. It was the wild west of close personal friendships at high top tables and giant bowls of trust in the form of shared community guacamoles, salsas and chips and care free sips of expensive beers between friends. I believe that one day we will have that glorious human experience again. And quite honestly, if we don’t, I’m not sure it’s a world I want to live. So we must believe.

Where were we? Oh yeah, Twitter. I wrote a blog post about it back in 2019. It was only the third post of this young and blossoming flooding blog at the time, and it might be my personal favorite of them all so far. Feel free to read it again here:

Twitter, not just for lunatics, also useful for flooding information

Basically the jist of the blog post, if don’t have the time to re-read it again, is I took all of this flooding data from Twitter and used it to understand yearly and seasonal flooding trends in Allegheny County. In the blog post I also called out most of the Twitter sphere and the people on there as lunatics and nutjobs. BTW you can find me actively participating on Twitter. Feel free to follow me here:

Well, I took that blog post from 2019 and turned it into a polished professional presentation and journal paper for a major national water conference. A bit to my surprise, it was accepted. I was supposed to present my findings to a large room full of people in New Orleans in September 2020. But then 2020 had to go and happen. The conference went virtual and I was no longer able to have giant shared bowls of gumbo and jazz music with conference strangers. However, there is a silver lining. The conference going virtual allowed me to record my presentation for all of the world to enjoy. So here it is, world! Enjoy.

Unlocking Twitter and High-Resolution Radar Rainfall to Better Understand Urban Flooding

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