[Senate Report 116-269]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]


                                                    Calendar No. 556

116th Congress}                                           { Report
                                 SENATE
  2d Session  }                                           { 116-269

======================================================================
                                                      
   FLOOD LEVEL OBSERVATION, OPERATIONS, AND DECISION SUPPORT ACT

                               __________

                              R E P O R T

                                 of the

           COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION

                                   on

                                S. 4462

[GRAPHIC(S) NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]


               September 24, 2020.--Ordered to be printed
               
               
                              __________
                               

                    U.S. GOVERNMENT PUBLISHING OFFICE                    
                           WASHINGTON : 2020                     
          
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
              
               
       SENATE COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
                     one hundred sixteenth congress
                             second session

                 ROGER F. WICKER, Mississippi, Chairman
JOHN THUNE, South Dakota             MARIA CANTWELL, Washington
ROY BLUNT, Missouri                  AMY KLOBUCHAR, Minnesota
TED CRUZ, Texas                      RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, Connecticut
DEB FISCHER, Nebraska                BRIAN SCHATZ, Hawaii
JERRY MORAN, Kansas                  EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska                 TOM UDALL, New Mexico
CORY GARDNER, Colorado               GARY C. PETERS, Michigan
MARSHA BLACKBURN, Tennessee          TAMMY BALDWIN, Wisconsin
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia  TAMMY DUCKWORTH, Illinois
MIKE LEE, Utah                       JON TESTER, Montana
RON JOHNSON, Wisconsin               KYRSTEN SINEMA, Arizona
TODD C. YOUNG, Indiana               JACKY ROSEN, Nevada
RICK SCOTT, Florida
                       John Keast, Staff Director
               David Strickland, Minority Staff Director
               
               
           
               
                                                     Calendar No. 556
 
 116th Congress}                                           { Report
                                  SENATE
   2d Session  }                                           { 116-269
 
 ======================================================================
 
    FLOOD LEVEL OBSERVATION, OPERATIONS, AND DECISION SUPPORT ACT

                                _______
                                

               September 24, 2020.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

       Mr. Wicker, from the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
                Transportation, submitted the following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 4462]

    The Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, to 
which was referred the bill (S. 4462) to establish a national 
integrated flood information system within the National Oceanic 
and Atmospheric Administration, and for other purposes, having 
considered the same, reports favorably thereon with an 
amendment (in the nature of a substitute) and recommends that 
the bill (as amended) do pass.

                          Purpose of the Bill

    The bill would authorize the National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to establish a national 
integrated flood information system and improve the 
coordination and communication of flood events by the National 
Weather Service (NWS) through site-specific designation of 
warning coordination hydrologists and an assessment of NOAA's 
system for issuing flash flood watches and warnings. This bill 
would also improve tornado warning and hurricane forecasting 
programs in order to reduce loss of life, injury, and damage to 
the economy.

                          Background and Needs


                        RECENT FLOODING IMPACTS

    Flooding is the most common and widespread of all weather-
related natural disasters in the United States.\1\ Flooding can 
occur during heavy rains, coastal storm surges, fast snow melt, 
and when dams or levees break, making it a coast-to-coast 
issue. Over the last 25 years, 99 percent of U.S. counties have 
been impacted by a flooding event.\2\ It is currently ranked as 
the fourth most costly weather disaster event in the United 
States, resulting in expected annual economic losses of over 
$25 billion.\3\ If the recent trends of increasing frequency 
and severity of severe weather events and sea level rise 
continue, flood events will also become more likely.\4\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \1\Department of Homeland Security, ``Floods'', updated Sep. 9, 
2020 (https://www.ready.gov/floods) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \2\Federal Emergency Management Agency, ``Data Visualization: 
Historical Flood Risk and Costs'', updated Jul. 24, 2020 (https://
www.fema.gov/data-visualization-floods-data-visualization) (accessed 
Sep. 21, 2020).
    \3\U.S. Congressional Budget Office, Expected Costs of Damage from 
Hurricane Winds and Storm-Related Flooding, April 2019, pp. 1-4. 
Available at CBO website (https://www.cbo.gov/
system/files/2019-04/55019-ExpectedCostsFromWindStorm.pdf) (accessed 
Sep. 21, 2020).
    \4\Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, ``Climate 
Implications--Storms and Flooding'' (https://eri.iu.edu/erit/
implications/storms-flooding.html) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
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    In 2019, there were three billion-dollar weather disasters 
from flooding.\5\ These three flooding events spanned over 7 
months along the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas rivers, 
impacting approximately 14 million people and more than 17 
States.\6\ The Midwest States and some Southern States--
Mississippi and Louisiana--were the most affected by the 2019 
flooding events, with over 11 States seeking Federal disaster 
funds for more than 400 counties.\7\ The flooding started in 
March when an extratropical cyclonic low-pressure area 
underwent rapid intensification (commonly referred to as a 
``bomb cyclone''\8\) and dropped large amounts of snow and rain 
in a short period across the middle section of the United 
States.\9\ This resulted in the inundation of millions of acres 
of agriculture and widespread damage to roads, bridges, levees, 
and dams across South Dakota, Nebraska, and Iowa, becoming one 
of the costliest U.S. inland flooding events on record ($10.8 
billion).\10\ \11\ The second flood event occurred from mid-May 
through June along the Arkansas River, causing an estimated $3 
billion in damages to homes, agriculture, transportation 
infrastructure, and levees in eastern Oklahoma and western 
Arkansas.\12\ The third flooding event was along the 
Mississippi River and spanned from mid-March to late-September, 
significantly impacting Midwest and Southern States' 
agriculture, transportation infrastructure, levees, and dams 
and costing an estimated $6.2 billion.\13\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \5\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National 
Centers for Environmental Information, ``Billion-Dollar Weather and 
Climate Disasters: Events'' (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/
US/2019) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \6\Ibid.
    \7\Sarah Almukhtar et al, ``The Great Flood of 2019: A Complete 
Picture of a Slow-Motion Disaster'', The New York Times, Sep. 11, 2019 
(https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/11/us/midwest-
flooding.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \8\National Public Radio, ```Bomb Cyclone' Paralyzes Central U.S., 
Bringing Snow, Floods and Dangerous Winds,'' Mar. 14, 2019 (https://
www.npr.org/2019/03/14/703352564/bomb-cyclone-paralyzes-central-u-s-
bringing-snow-floods-and-dangerous-winds) (accessed Sep. 23, 2020).
    \9\Center for Disaster Philanthropy, ``2019 Catastrophic River 
Flooding'', Mar. 14, 2019 (https://disasterphilanthropy.org/disaster/
2019-u-s-spring-floods/) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \10\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ``Billion-
Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Events'' (https://
www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2019) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \11\Sarah Almukhtar et al, ``The Great Flood of 2019: A Complete 
Picture of a Slow-Motion Disaster'', The New York Times, Sep. 11, 2019 
(https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/11/us/midwest-
flooding.html?auth=link-dismiss-google1tap) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \12\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National 
Centers for Environmental Information, ``Billion-Dollar Weather and 
Climate Disasters: Events'' (https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/
US/2019) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \13\Ibid.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Agriculture was one of the industries most affected by the 
2019 flood events. In August 2019, the U.S. Department of 
Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency reported that farmers 
were unable to plant 19.3 million acres in crops that year, 
with six States unable to plant on over 1 million acres,\14\ 
making 2019 the year with the most unplanted acres since the 
USDA began reporting those figures in 2007. As of November 
2019, the USDA has paid out a record $4.24 billion to farmers 
for acres they were unable to plant.\15\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \14\U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency, ``Report: 
Farmers Prevented From Planting Crops on More Than 19 Million Acres'', 
press release, Aug. 12, 2019 (https://www.fsa.usda.gov/news-room/news-
releases/2019/report-farmers-prevented-from-planting-crops-on-more-
than-19-million-acres) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020). The six States with 
more than 1 million acres unplanted were: South Dakota, Illinois, Ohio, 
Missouri, Arkansas, and Minnesota.
    \15\High Plains Public Radio, ``Farmers Receive Record Payments for 
the Crops They Couldn't Plant'', Nov. 27, 2019 (https://www.hppr.org/
post/farmers-receive-record-payments-crops-they-couldnt-plant) 
(accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Transportation infrastructure was another area 
significantly impacted by the floodwaters, which submerged 
roads and washed pavement away. For example, Nebraska went days 
without passable routes, with over 27 bridges damaged and over 
3,300 miles of road closures, costing more than $200 million in 
damages.\16\ These impacts to transportation infrastructure 
were also felt across Midwest and Southern States, crippling 
relief efforts and stopping the flow of other goods and 
services.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \16\Nebraska Department of Transportation, ``Nebraska DOT Flood 
Recovery Updates'' (https://dot.nebraska.gov/news-media/nebraska-flood-
2019/) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The historic high flooding also led the Army Corps of 
Engineers to open spillways to prevent damage to dams and to 
protect life and property, which resulted in unintended 
consequences to the Gulf Coast States' marine fisheries. 
Floodwaters from the Mississippi River Basin flowed downstream, 
where the Army Corps of Engineers opened the gates of the 
Bonnet Carre spillway twice in the same year for the first time 
since the spillway was constructed in 1928.\17\ The freshwater 
influx into the Mississippi Sound resulted in the deaths of 
almost all oysters in several areas.\18\ Additionally, the 
influx of water carried excess nutrient runoff and bacteria, 
promoting the formation of harmful algal blooms (HABs). HABs 
release biotoxins that can harm people, fish, shellfish, marine 
mammals, and birds.\19\ After algal blooms, such as HABs, die 
and decompose, the decomposition process uses up the available 
oxygen in the water, leading to the formation of a hypoxic dead 
zone.\20\ The influx of freshwater and formation of HABs and 
dead zones resulted in over $500 million in damages for marine 
fisheries for three Gulf Coast States: Alabama, Louisiana, and 
Mississippi.\21\
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    \17\U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, ``Bonnet Carre Spillway 
Overview'' (https://www.mvn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Mississippi-River-
Flood-Control/Bonnet-Carre-Spillway-Overview/Spillway-Operation-
Information/) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).).
    \18\University of Southern Mississippi, ``2019 Bonnet Carre 
Spillway Monitoring Update'', Jun. 21, 2019 (https://gcrl.usm.edu/
bonny.carre.spillway/2019%20Bonnet%20Carre%20Spillway%20
Overview%20-%20June%2021%202019%20-%20Final%20Version%20v2.pdf) 
(accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \19\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ``Joining 
Forces to Understand the Impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms on 
Aquaculture'', press release, Sep. 29, 2017 (https://
www.nefsc.noaa.gov/press--release/pr2017/features/harmful-algal-blooms-
aquaculture/) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \20\Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ``Harmful Algal 
Bloom (HAB)-Associated Illness'', last reviewed Dec. 14, 2017 (https://
www.cdc.gov/habs/illness-symptoms-freshwater.html) (accessed Sep. 21, 
2020).
    \21\Jessica Hathaway, ``Long Road to Relief: Mississippi Oystermen 
Slated for $1 Million in Disaster Checks'', National Fishermen, Feb. 
20, 2020 (https://www.nationalfisherman.com/gulf-south-atlantic/long-
road-to-relief-mississippi-oystermen-slated-for-1-million-in-disaster-
checks/) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
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    This year, significant flooding has continued to impact 
Midwest and Southern States. In February, heavy rain resulted 
in flooding across Southern States and near-record flooding in 
Mississippi and Tennessee, impacting hundreds of people's 
homes.\22\ In April, numerous severe storms and flooding swept 
through 10 Midwest and Southern States, killing at least 30 
people and knocking out electricity for approximately 750,000 
people.\23\ In May, historic flooding in Michigan destroyed two 
dams, damaging homes and property and forcing more than 10,000 
people to evacuate.\24\ While flooding has not been as severe 
or prolonged this year as flooding in 2019, the effects have 
been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, creating 
significant social and economic hardships.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \22\Doyle Rice et al., ```Historic, Unprecedented' Flooding Swamps 
Southern USA; Mississippi and Tennessee Hardest Hit'', USA Today, Feb. 
17, 2020 (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/02/17/
mississippi-flooding-swamps-southern-us/4784911002/) (accessed Sep. 21, 
2020).
    \23\Associated Press, ``Storms Tear Through US South, Leaving At 
Least 30 People Dead'', The Guardian, Apr. 13, 2020 (https://
www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/13/us-storms-latest-flooding-
deaths-south-states) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \24\N'dea Yancey-Bragg and Frank Wisil, ``Mid-Michigan Flooding 
Crests at 35 Feet, Whitmer Requests FEMA Help: What We Know'', USA 
Today, May 21, 2020 (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/
05/21/michigan-flooding-floodwater-crests-whitmer-requests-fema-help/
5234695002/) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
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    Flood events have also impacted other regions. For example, 
in Washington, the costs of flooding are the greatest as 
compared to all other natural disasters.\25\ The sources of 
flooding differ regionally: in western Washington, it's 
generally significant rain events, while in eastern Washington 
and the Cascades, spring snowmelt is the primary cause.\26\ For 
this reason, the FLOODS Act contains provisions for a broad 
national integrated system that also accounts for regional 
variation in the kinds of flood events that are most prevalent.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \25\State of Washington, Department of Ecology, ``Floods & 
Floodplain Planning'' (https://ecology.wa.gov/Water-Shorelines/
Shoreline-coastal-management/Hazards/Floods-floodplain-planning) 
(accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \26\Id.
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           IMPORTANCE OF MONITORING AND FORECASTING FLOODING

    In 2015, NOAA established the National Water Center to 
better understand and predict flooding events and inform water 
management decisions. Central to the National Water Center's 
tools is the National Water Model (NWM). The NWM simulates and 
forecasts how water moves throughout the Nation's rivers and 
streams. The model generates hourly forecasts for the entire 
river network, including high-resolution forecasts of soil 
moisture, surface runoff, snow water equivalent, and other 
parameters. The NWM is a cornerstone of the new NOAA Water 
Initiative and the National Water Center, providing more 
closely integrated water predictive capabilities to promote 
resilience to water risks.\27\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \27\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ``National 
Water Center'' (https://water.noaa.gov/about/nwc) (accessed Sep. 21, 
2020).
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    Products like these, hosted at the National Water Center, 
help communities and industries make better-informed decisions 
about water management and how to prepare and respond to 
extreme water events.\28\ The NWM is providing impact-based 
decision support services nationwide by providing ``street 
level'' water information and guidance, as well as serving as 
the foundation for additional private sector water services. 
The NWM also improves NOAA's ability to meet the needs of its 
stakeholders (e.g., emergency managers, reservoir operators, 
floodplain managers, farmers, etc.) with more accurate, 
detailed, frequent and expanded water information.\29\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \28\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ``2019 
National Hydrologic Assessment'', Mar. 21, 2019 (https://
www.nws.noaa.gov/oh/2019NHA.html) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \29\Ibid.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Additionally, NOAA produces precipitation frequency 
estimates that are used by Federal, State, and local agencies 
to produce flood maps and develop regulations related to 
infrastructure design and planning activities to minimize flood 
risks.\30\ These values are reported in a Precipitation-
Frequency Atlas, commonly referred to as Atlas 14, and help 
define point-based rainfall amounts for 1-, 5-, 10-, and 100-
year rainfall events. The Atlas is made up of 12 volumes, 
representing different geographic regions across the United 
States and affiliated territories.\31\ In NOAA's most recent 
volume update (volume 11), it showed that values previously 
classified as 100-year events in Houston were now 25-year 
events.\32\ Currently, funding for NOAA Atlas 14 work comes 
entirely from external sources, requiring NOAA to solicit 
funding from partner and customer Federal and State agencies 
for each volume.\33\ This has resulted in irregular volume 
updates, and caused a lapse of over 50 years in updates for 
five Northwestern States (Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, 
and Wyoming).\34\ In 2018, the Subcommittee of Hydrology listed 
Atlas 14 as one of three extreme storm products needed to help 
the United States prepare for extreme weather events, 
recommending that the program receive a secure funding source, 
improve methodology to evaluate precipitation frequency, and be 
updated every 10 years.\35\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \30\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 
``Precipitation Frequency Data Server'' (https://hdsc.nws.noaa.gov/
hdsc/pfds/index.html) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \31\Ibid.
    \32\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ``NOAA Updates 
Texas Rainfall Frequency Values'', press release (https://www.noaa.gov/
media-release/noaa-updates-texas-rainfall-frequency-values) (accessed 
Sep. 21, 2020).
    \33\Subcommittee on Hydrology, Extreme Rainfall Product Needs, Oct. 
10, 2018 (https://acwi.gov/hydrology/extreme-storm/
product_needs_proposal_20181010.pdf) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \34\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 
``Precipitation Frequency Data Server'' (https://hdsc.nws.noaa.gov/
hdsc/pfds/index.html) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \35\Subcommittee on Hydrology, Extreme Rainfall Product Needs, Oct. 
10, 2018 (https://acwi.gov/hydrology/extreme-storm/
product_needs_proposal_20181010.pdf) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
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      NEED TO IMPROVE TORNADO WARNING AND HURRICANE COMMUNICATION

    Windstorms are the largest loss-producing natural hazards 
in the United States, causing over $1 trillion in economic 
losses and over 8,000 fatalities from 1980 to 2018.\36\ The 
majority of losses related to life and property by windstorms 
can be attributed to tornadoes and hurricanes. Between 2017 and 
2019, there were 23 billion-dollar tornado and hurricane 
disaster events reported by the NWS, resulting in 3,338 deaths 
and over $360 billion in damages.\37\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \36\Interagency Coordinating Committee, National windstorm Impact 
Reduction Program: Biennial Progress Report to Congress for Fiscal 
Years 2017 and 2018 (https://www.nist.gov/system/files/documents/2020/
03/04/NWIRP%20FY17-18%20Progress%20Report%202-24-2020.pdf) (accessed 
Sep. 21, 2020).
    \37\National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, ``Billion-
Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters: Events'' (https://
www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2019) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Tornadoes remain one of the most challenging extreme-
weather events to predict and warn against, with first-person 
observations being the primary tool for confirming tornado 
presence.\38\ On March 2, 2020, Nashville, Tennessee, had a 
tornado touch down in the middle of the night without warning, 
killing 24 people. Residents of downtown Nashville had about 6 
minutes of warning before the tornado was directly overhead, 
while the Nashville International Airport and locations to the 
west were hit without warning.\39\ This event further 
demonstrates the need to improve tornado forecasting. Since the 
1970s, scientists have known that tornadoes emit acoustic 
radiation at audio and infrasonic (sound inaudible to humans) 
frequencies.\40\ Scientists at the University of Mississippi's 
National Center for Physical Acoustics have begun using 
infrasound produced by tornadoes to detect, locate, and 
characterize tornadoes in real time.\41\ Recent work has shown 
that detection of infrasound through low-frequency audio 
acoustic sensors can help identify directional movement, 
bearing, and the intensity of tornadoes as well as expand the 
distance of detection to over 50 miles. Additional work is 
needed to determine if tornado signals are distinctive from 
other sources of infrasound, ensuring that forecasts can 
accurately predict tornado presence from other storm 
systems.\42\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \38\Maddie Stone, ``Scientists are Using Nuclear Weapons 
Surveillance Tech to `Hear' Tornadoes'', The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 
2020, at https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/02/23/scientists-
are-using-nuclear-weapons-surveillance-tech-hear-tornadoes/) (accessed 
Sep. 21, 2020).
    \39\Matthew Cappucci, ``Tennessee Tornadoes' Death Toll Was Tied to 
a Lack of Warning, Awareness and Readiness'', The Washington Post, Mar. 
6, 2020 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/03/06/tennessee-
tornado-tragedy-was-tied-lack-warning-awareness-readiness/) (accessed 
Sep. 21, 2020).
    \40\T.M. Georges , ``Infrasound From Convective Storms: Examining 
the Evidence'', Reviews of Geophysics, vol. 11 (August 1973), p. 571-
594 (doi:10.1029/RG011i003p00571) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \41\William Garth Frazier et al., ``Acoustic Detection, Tracking, 
and Characterization of Three Tornadoes'', The Journal of the 
Acoustical Society of America, vol. 135, no. 4 (April 2014), p. 1742-
1751 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1121/1.4867365) (accessed Sep. 21, 2020).
    \42\Maddie Stone, ``Scientists Are Using Nuclear Weapons 
Surveillance Tech to `Hear' Tornadoes'', The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 
2020 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/weather/2020/02/23/scientists-are-
using-nuclear-weapons-surveillance-tech-hear-tornadoes/) (accessed Sep. 
21, 2020).
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    Hurricane forecasting has improved substantially in the 
last century, largely due to weather satellites and computer 
models. Less than 100 years ago, hurricane landfall was often a 
surprise--leaving no time for preparedness or evacuation. 
Today, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is improving 
forecasting between 24 hours and 5 days before landfall, which 
can save lives, property, and billions of dollars.
    Understanding how people interpret forecasts and how that 
interpretation can influence behavior and motivation is 
valuable in advancing the impact the weather enterprise can 
have on saving lives. Weather forecasting is inherently 
uncertain. Therefore, it is particularly important to address 
the communication of uncertainty to users, as well as the need 
to discuss not only predictions of weather variables, but also 
predictions of weather impacts.\43\ Because of these gaps, many 
experts believe that social science should be incorporated as a 
primary element of the solution and not just considered in 
hindsight.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \43\Jack Williams, ``When Storms Were a Surprise: A History Of 
Hurricane Warnings,'' The Washington Post, Aug. 16, 2013 (https://
www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/08/16/when-
storms-were-a-surprise-a-history-of-hurricane-warnings/) (accessed Sep. 
21, 2020).
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                         Summary of Provisions

    If enacted, S. 4462, the Flood Level Observation, 
Operations, and Decision Support Act, would do the following:
   Establish a national integrated flood information 
        system to reduce flood-related effects and costs.
   Establish partnerships with institutions of higher 
        education and Federal agencies to improve total water 
        predictions.
   Designate a service coordination hydrologist at each 
        NWS River Forecast Center to increase impact-based 
        decision support services at the State and local level.
   Evaluate and improve flood watches and warnings and 
        communication of information to support coordinated 
        flood management.
   Authorize the NOAA Precipitation Frequency Atlas of 
        the United States program to estimate and communicate 
        precipitation frequency in the United States.
   Establish a committee to ensure coordination of 
        Federal departments with joint or overlapping 
        responsibilities in water management.
   Establish a hydrologic research fellowship program.
   Identify, and support research that enables a 
        consistent, Federal set of forward-looking, long-term 
        meteorological information.
   Assess gaps in the availability of snow-related data 
        to assess and predict floods and flood impacts.
   Make flood-related data more readily available to 
        the public.

                          Legislative History

    S. 4462, the Flood Level Observation, Operations, and 
Decision Support (FLOODS) Act, was introduced on August 6, 
2020, by Senator Wicker (for himself and Senator Peters) and 
was referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation of the Senate. On September 16, 2020, the 
Committee met in open Executive Session and, by voice vote, 
ordered S. 4462 reported favorably with an amendment (in the 
nature of a substitute).
    A related bill, S. 914, was introduced on March 27, 2019, 
as the Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act of 2019, 
by Senator Wicker (for himself and Senator Cantwell) and was 
referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and 
Transportation of the Senate. S. 914 would establish the 
National Water Center, within the NWS, as the primary facility 
for hydrologic decision support services. On July 30, 2020, S. 
914, the Coordinated Ocean Observations and Research Act of 
2020, passed the Senate with an amendment (in the nature of a 
substitute) by unanimous consent.
    In the 115th Congress, H.R. 353, the Weather Research and 
Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017,\44\ became law on April 18, 
2017, prioritizing weather research through improved weather 
data, modeling, computing forecasts, and warnings for the 
protection of life and property.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \44\Public Law 115-25.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    H.R. 244, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017,\45\ 
became law on May 5, 2017, appropriating funds for the National 
Water Center.
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    \45\Public Law 115-31.
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                            Estimated Costs

    In compliance with subsection (a)(3) of paragraph 11 of 
rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee 
states that, in its opinion, it is necessary to dispense with 
the requirements of paragraphs (1) and (2) of that subsection 
in order to expedite the business of the Senate.
    A formal cost estimate was not timely submitted to the 
Committee before the filing of this report, but the Committee 
notes that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) provided an 
informal cost estimate by email as follows:



                      Regulatory Impact Statement

    In accordance with paragraph 11(b) of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides the 
following evaluation of the regulatory impact of the 
legislation, as reported:

                       number of persons covered

    S. 4462, as reported, would not impose any new significant 
regulatory requirements, and, therefore, would not subject any 
individuals or businesses to new significant regulations.

                            economic impact

    Enactment of S. 4462 is not expected to have any 
significant adverse impacts on the Nation's economy. It will 
likely have a positive impact by increasing the efficiency of 
Federal flood coordination and prediction and protecting human 
lives and property.

                                privacy

    S. 4462, as reported, would not have any adverse impact on 
the privacy of individuals.

                               paperwork

    S. 4462, as reported, would not impose substantial 
paperwork burden on individuals or businesses.

                   Congressionally Directed Spending

    In compliance with paragraph 4(b) of rule XLIV of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, the Committee provides that no 
provisions contained in the bill, as reported, meet the 
definition of congressionally directed spending items under the 
rule.

                      Section-by-Section Analysis


Section. 1. Short title; table of contents.

    This section would provide that the bill may be cited as 
the ``Flood Level Observation, Operations, and Decision Support 
Act'' or the ``FLOODS Act'' and would provide a table of 
contents.

Section 2. Definitions.

    This section would define the terms ``State'' and ``Under 
Secretary''.

Section 3. National Integrated Flood Information System.

    This section would authorize the Under Secretary to 
establish a system, referred to as the ``National Integrated 
Flood Information System'' (NIFIS), to reduce flood-related 
effects and costs by leveraging existing work within NOAA and 
partnerships to better support more timely decision making. 
NIFIS would provide a flood early warning system that collects 
information necessary to predict floods and flooding impacts, 
coordinating and integrating interagency Federal research and 
monitoring. NIFIS would translate and communicate predictions 
into flood forecasts and watches and warnings to public and 
private entities engaged in flood planning and preparedness, at 
the national, regional, and local levels. This section would 
also allow NIFIS to continue ongoing research and monitoring 
activities and collaborations relating to floods, develop 
private partnerships and academic cooperative partnerships, 
utilize citizen scientists to collect and integrate monitoring 
data, and engage with and leverage existing resources within 
the Administration.

Section 4. Observations and modeling for total water prediction.

    This section would require the Under Secretary to establish 
partnerships with one or more institutions of higher education 
and Federal agencies to evaluate observations that would 
improve total water prediction, prioritizing partnerships that 
evaluate enhancing in-situ observations through manned and 
unmanned aerial systems. This section would also direct 
improvements in coastal oceanographic modeling and the 
incorporation of observations that improve total water 
prediction.

Section 5. Service coordination hydrologists at River Forecast Centers 
        of the National Weather Service.

    This section would codify the existing position of service 
coordination hydrologist at NWS River Forecast Centers. Service 
coordination hydrologists would increase impact-based decision 
support services.

Section 6. Improving National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
        communication of future flood risks and hazardous flash flood 
        events.

    This section would authorize the Under Secretary, within 
two years of enactment of this Act, to conduct and submit an 
assessment to Congress on the NWS's flash flood watches and 
warnings and communication of information to support 
coordinated flood management. The assessment would specifically 
focus on: (1) ways to communicate hazardous flash flood events 
to the public; (2) ways to provide actionable geographic 
information to watch and warning recipients; and (3) an 
evaluation of information delivery to support coordinated 
Federal and non-Federal flood preparation and response. The 
assessment would be done in consultation with weather and flood 
management related governmental, academic, not-for-profit and 
private entities, and reviewed by the National Academy of 
Sciences for scientific and technical soundness. Based on the 
evaluation, the Under Secretary shall submit recommendations to 
improve watches and warnings, including improvement of the 
communication of the risks posed by hazardous flood events and 
providing actionable geographic information to the recipient of 
a watch or warning for a flash flood. This section would also 
define the terms watch and warning as products issued by the 
NOAA to alert the general public to the potential for or 
presence of an event and to inform the action to prevent loss 
of life and property, excluding technical or specialized 
meteorological and hydrological forecast products.

Section 7. Freshwater monitoring along the coast.

    This section would require the Under Secretary to assess 
the availability of data for freshwater flooding into oceans, 
bays, and estuaries and the need for additional data to assess 
and predict the effect of flooding or freshwater discharge. The 
Under Secretary would create an inventory of those data needs 
and use the inventory when planning for collection of 
additional data.

Section 8. Tornado warning improvement.

    This section would amend the Weather Research and 
Forecasting Innovation Act of 2017,\46\ requiring the Under 
Secretary to examine the value of incorporating innovation 
observations to improve tornado forecasts, predictions, and 
warnings.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \46\Public Law 115-25.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 9. Hurricane forecast improvement program.

    This section would amend the Hurricane Forecast Improvement 
Program in the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act 
of 2017,\47\ requiring the Under Secretary to examine the value 
of incorporating innovation observations to improve hurricane 
forecasts.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
    \47\Id.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Section 10. Weather and water research and development planning.

    This section would amend NOAA's weather research and 
development plan, specifying the consideration of flood-events 
when identifying and specifying research and development 
activities to meet the operational weather mission of the NWS.

Section 11. Forecast communication coordinators.

    This section would require the Under Secretary to provide 
assistance to States for forecast communication coordinators to 
enable local interpretation and planning based on the 
information.

Section 12. Estimates of precipitation frequency in the United States.

    This section would direct the NOAA Administrator to 
establish a program, referred to as the ``NOAA Precipitation 
Frequency Atlas of the United States'', to estimate and 
communicate precipitation frequency in the United States. The 
program would serve as the official source of the Federal 
Government for estimates on precipitation frequency and would 
better inform the public and provide information on temporal 
and spatial distribution of heavy precipitation, analyses of 
seasonality in precipitation, and trends in annual maximum 
series data. The program would conduct estimates for the United 
States at least once every 10 years, publish those estimates, 
and make them available on a publicly accessible NOAA website. 
The Administrator may partner, consult, and/or coordinate with 
Federal, State, local, Tribal, territorial government agencies, 
academic, private, and nonprofit organization. The program 
would be authorized appropriations of $3.5 million for each 
fiscal year from 2021 through 2030.

Section 13. Interagency Coordinating Committee on Water Management.

    This section would establish a committee, referred to as 
the ``Interagency Coordinating Committee on Water Management'', 
to ensure that Federal departments and agencies that engage in 
water-related matters work together where they have joint or 
overlapping responsibilities to do the following:
   Improve interagency coordination on water resource 
        and data management.
   Coordinate and consolidate existing water-related 
        Federal task forces and groups.
   Designate and consolidate repositories responsible 
        for archiving and managing water-related 
        infrastructure.
   Conduct integrated planning for Federal investments 
        in water-related infrastructure.
   Support water infrastructure workforce development.
    The Interagency Coordinating Committee on Water Management 
would be co-chaired by the Secretary of Interior and the 
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator and would submit 
a report to Congress listing research and cross-agency research 
and coordination needs.

Section 14. National Weather Service hydrologic research fellowship 
        program.

    This section would direct the Director of the NWS to 
establish a hydrologic research fellowship program for 
individuals who are U.S. citizens and enrolled in a research-
based graduate program that advances hydrologic research 
priorities. Selection preference would be given to applicants 
from historically Black colleges and universities and minority-
serving institutions. Successful applicants would be placed in 
positions within the Executive branch for up to 2 years and 
would do research on priorities deemed appropriate by the Under 
Secretary and in consultation with the United States Geological 
Survey, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Army Corps 
of Engineers. Individuals that successfully complete the 
program requirements shall be eligible for direct hire for up 
to 2 years.

Section 15. Identification and support of consistent, Federal set of 
        forward looking, long-term meteorological information.

    This section would direct the Under Secretary to identify, 
and support research that enables, a consistent, Federal set of 
forward-looking, long-term meteorological information that 
models future extreme weather events, other environmental 
trends, projections, and up-to-date observations, including 
mesoscale information deemed appropriate by the Under 
Secretary.

Section 16. Gap analysis on availability of snow-related data to assess 
        and predict flood and flood impacts.

    This section would direct the Under Secretary to conduct a 
gap analysis of the availability of snow-related data to assess 
and predict floods and flood impacts. Findings from the gap 
analysis and opportunities for additional collaboration among 
Federal agencies to collect snow-related data to better assess 
and predict floods and flood impacts would be submitted in a 
report to Congress within 180 days of enactment of this Act.

Section 17. Availability to the public of flood-related data.

    This section would direct the Under Secretary to make 
flood-related data freely accessible, or available at a cost 
that does not exceed the cost of preparing the data, to the 
public on a NOAA website.

                        Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by 
the bill, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
material is printed in italic, existing law in which no change 
is proposed is shown in roman):

WEATHER RESEARCH AND FORECASTING INNOVATION ACT OF 2017

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                            [15 U.S.C. 8513]

SEC. 103. TORNADO WARNING IMPROVEMENT AND EXTENSION PROGRAM.

    (a) In General.--The Under Secretary, in collaboration with 
the United States weather industry and academic partners, shall 
establish a tornado warning improvement and extension program.
    (b) Goal.--The goal of such program shall be to reduce the 
loss of life and economic losses from tornadoes through the 
development and extension of accurate, effective, and timely 
tornado forecasts, predictions, and warnings, including the 
prediction of tornadoes beyond 1 hour in advance.
    (c) Innovative Observations.--The Under Secretary shall 
ensure that the program periodically examines the value of 
incorporating innovative observations, such as acoustic or 
infrasonic measurements, observations from phased array radars, 
and observations from mesonets, with respect to the improvement 
of tornado forecasts, predictions, and warnings.
    [(c)] (d) Program Plan.--Not later than 180 days after the 
date of the enactment of this Act, the Assistant Administrator 
for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, in coordination with the 
Director of the National Weather Service, shall develop a 
program plan that details the specific research, development, 
and technology transfer activities, as well as corresponding 
resources and timelines, necessary to achieve the program goal.
    [(d)] (e) Annual Budget for Plan Submittal.--Following 
completion of the plan, the Under Secretary, acting through the 
Assistant Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research 
and in coordination with the Director of the National Weather 
Service, shall, not less frequently than once each year, submit 
to Congress a proposed budget corresponding with the activities 
identified in the plan.

                          [15 U.S.C. 8514(b)]

SEC. 104. HURRICANE FORECAST IMPROVEMENT PROGRAM.

    (a) * * *
    (b) Goal.--The goal of the project maintained under 
subsection (a) shall be to develop and extend accurate 
hurricane forecasts and warnings in order to reduce loss of 
life, injury, and damage to the economy, with a focus on--
            (1) improving the prediction of rapid 
        intensification and track of hurricanes;
            (2) improving the forecast and communication of 
        storm surges from hurricanes[; and];
            (3) incorporating risk communication research to 
        create more effective watch and warning products[.]; 
        and
            (4) evaluating and incorporating, as appropriate, 
        innovative observations, including acoustic or 
        infrasonic measurements.
    (c) * * *

                          [15 U.S.C. 8515(2)]

SEC. 105. WEATHER RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PLANNING.

    Not later than 1 year after the date of the enactment of 
this Act, and not less frequently than once each year 
thereafter, the Under Secretary, acting through the Assistant 
Administrator for Oceanic and Atmospheric Research and in 
coordination with the Director of the National Weather Service 
and the Assistant Administrator for Satellite and Information 
Services, shall issue a research and development and research 
to operations plan to restore and maintain United States 
leadership in numerical weather prediction and forecasting 
that--
            (1) * * *
            (2) identifies and prioritizes specific research 
        and development activities, and performance metrics, 
        weighted to meet the operational weather and flood-
        event mission of the National Weather Service to 
        achieve a weather-ready Nation;
            (3) * * *
            (4) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


FOOD SECURITY ACT OF 1985

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                         [15 U.S.C. 8521(f)(1)]

SEC. 1762. WEATHER AND CLIMATE INFORMATION IN AGRICULTURE.

    (a) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *

    (f) Forecast Communication Coordinators.--
            (1) In general.--The Under Secretary shall foster 
        effective communication, understanding, and use of the 
        forecasts by the intended users of the information 
        described in subsection (d). This [may] shall include 
        assistance to States for forecast communication 
        coordinators to enable local interpretation and 
        planning based on the information.
            (2) * * *
            (3) * * *

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


                                  [all]