The objective of StormSense, an award-winningsmart cities research project is to proliferate low-cost, low-energy water level sensors to enhance the capability of communities to prepare and respond to the disastrous impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding in ways that are replicablescalablemeasurable, and make a comparable difference. These goals aid the collaborative nature of StormSense as an active participant in the Global City Teams Challenge, and it was initially funded by NIST through an announcement from the White House in 2016.

Replicability Standard Scalability Standard
Measurability Standard Making a Difference - Goal

Click on a core component of the project to learn more

In pursuit of this, the project works to enhance emergency preparedness for inundation-related threats by advancing research to help better predict flooding resulting from storm surge, rain, and tides.


So far, StormSense has installed more than 40 water level sensors through cooperative agreements with municipal governments throughout Hampton Roads, Virginia. The system also ingests data from 25 more sensors outside its network from NOAA and USGS to provide a more comprehensive at-a-glance view of real-time flood conditions in Tidewater Virginia.  


For additional technical details regarding the system, please consult our peer-reviewed publications.

 How it Works

This is all accomplished by installing low-cost water level sensors, which communicate via the Internet of Things (IoT) to routinely monitor and publicly report water levels to the StormSense cloud from each sensor every 6 minutes. StormSense is a regional partnership with many flood-resilient communities working together to develop a standardized, automated water level monitoring system that integrates the many disparate data sources needed to improve VIMS' inundation forecasting efforts, including sensors for wind speed, air pressure, rainfall, and water levels, as noted in these recent TV news media spots:

StormSense on WAVY TV 10:

StormSense on WTKR TV 3:

Each participating partner in the project has made strides to apply the StormSense regional water level monitoring system to their community's specific needs, such that it effectively "senses storms' impacts" and reports on developing conditions in an expedient manner. For example:

  • VIMS has integrated many of StormSense's incoming measurements directly into its 36-hr tidal forecasting system, via Tidewatch Charts. Though this service, the observations from StormSense, VIMS, the USGS, and NOAA are fed to a harmonic extraction filter to aid in near-term tidal prediction to geospatially translate this information into the Tidewatch Forecast Map. As StormSense expands beyond Hampton Roads to all of Tidewater VA, and ingests more rain gauges into the service, the goal is to provide (and validate) these forecasts throughout VA's coastal plain, and also integrate rainfall inputs into the forecast map, respectively. 
  • Newport News has integrated StormSense into their Summer 2018 launch of their NNAlert system. The subscriber-based system advises their citizens or hazardous conditions, and the city's 10 new StormSense sensors (installed in 2017-2018) send out automated flood alerts relative to critical thresholds for inundation at each site. This helps raise the City's Community Rating in FEMA's Nat'l Flood Insurance Program, and this, in turn, provides tangible cost savings on flood insurance premiums for homeowners living in the city's floodplains.    
  • Virginia Beach has developed interactive voice-query support via Amazon Alexa (through one of StormSense's many awards, detailed in the expandable table below). The user can query their compatible smart home or mobile device via Amazon's Reverb App to ask Alexa the real-time water levels and atmospheric conditions at StormSense and USGS sensors near them. These data are also fed to data labels on the map.

StormSense Project Awards

The project has received numerous awards since its inception, click the collapsible arrows below for more information on each recent accolade:

2019 VA Governor's Technology Awards
StormSense was the recipient of two Governor's Technology Awards at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Innovative Technology Symposium in 2019. The annual meeting of senior-level executives and technology decision-makers from state and local government, business, and education marked a particularly fierce competition for the awards, but ultimately recognized StormSense and StormSense Alerts with awards. StormSense received the award for "Cross-Boundary Collaboration on IT Service Delivery Initiatives," while StormSense Alerts — which automatically issues a warning to users when waters in Newport News reach pre-established critical inundation thresholds — earned the award for "Innovative Use of Technology in Local Government." Governor Northam kicked off the symposium, which provides opportunities to identify, discuss, and propose solutions to Virginia’s critical technology issues. StormSense's recognition was a result of the efforts of Commonwealth Center of Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, the City of Virginia Beach, the City of Newport News, the City of Norfolk, and the City of Portsmouth.
2019 ESRI Special Achievement in GIS Award
StormSense was nominated by ESRI and ultimately chosen as one of 175 project-based web portals from more than 100,000 Esri clients worldwide for recognition in the 2019 Special Achievement in Geographic Information Systems Category. StormSense's success in this endeavor further acknowledges VIMS along with the Virginia Commonwealth Center of Recurrent Flooding Resiliency, City of Virginia Beach, City of Newport News, and the City of Norfolk. 
2018 Government Innovation Award (Public Sector Innovation)
StormSense was a winner in the 2018 Government Innovation Awards in the Public Sector Innovations Category. StormSense's success in this endeavor is acknowledges the following organizations' excellence in collaborative efforts in public sector innovation: Virginia Commonwealth Center of Recurrent Flooding Resiliency; City of Virginia Beach; City of Newport News; City of Norfolk; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. 
2018 Smart City Infrastructure Challenge Winner (Hampton Roads - RCR)

Hampton Roads was recognized as a winner in the Smart City Infrastructure Challenge at the Smart Regions Conference in Columbus, OH, in Oct. 2018. The region was first announced as a finalist earlier in the month for its initiatives in envisioning a future with more 'smart and connected development' via the Regional Connectivity Ring (RCR) between cities in south side Hampton Roads. StormSense was recognized as a key component of the project, as the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) envisions the RCR will be used to connect five Southside cities - Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake - to the transatlantic cable landings. This will help serve as the foundation for smart and resilient regional development through digitally-empowered communities. 

2018 Smart Cities North America Winner (Smart Water Category)
StormSense won International Data Corp. (IDC)'s 2018 Smart Cities North America Awards in the 'Smart Water' Category. StormSense was recognized as a finalist on March 16th, and through a 'people's choice' open survey over 4 weeks, >3000 survey responses chose our project over the other finalists in our category. 
2018 Exemplary Case Study & Innovation Award

StormSense was recognized as one of the Alliance for Innovation's 21 featured case studies at their Transforming Local Government Conference in Tacoma, WA. The presentation provided a unique opportunity to showcase the interactive audio query feature for StormSense's water level network and solicit feedback for more innovative response protocols. VIMS and Virginia Beach completed the competitive interview process to present StormSense as Virginia Beach's case study. We separately submitted StormSense to their top-tier innovation award competition and won! See the award video here.

2018 Smart 50 Award (Networks)

StormSense was awarded a Smart 50 Award as one of the 50 most transformative smart projects of the year by Smart Cities Connect at their Conference & Expo in Kansas City, MO. The project is listed in the Networks Award Category on their site. The project was also featured on Smart Cities Connect's website in a pre-awards show banquet interview.

2018 CIO 100 Awards (Networks)

StormSense was awarded a CIO 100 Award by tech media company IDG. The City of Virginia Beach has been named a recipient of the 2018 award, which recognizes organizations worldwide that have high levels of excellence in information technology. The StormSense project was honored as a standout initiative for its use of internet of things sensors, artificial intelligence and voice assistance integration. Sensors are placed in flood-prone areas throughout the city, to collect data for current and future analysis. Winners were recognized during at an awards ceremony on Aug. 15 in California. 

2017 GovLoop Top 30 Government Innovation (Cloud Computing)

StormSense was recognized by GovLoop as one of the top 30 government innovations of 2017. The project is featured in the Cloud Computing Category on their site (on pg. 9 of the Full Report). Dr. Loftis spoke with Francis Rose about StormSense on Talking Transformation (Government Matters), which aired on Washington DC TV News Channel 8 on Feb. 15, 2018


2017 Best Practices Award, Amazon Web Services' City on a Cloud (Large City)

StormSense was a winner in Amazon Web Services' City on a Cloud Innovation Challenge (Best Practices, Large City Category) in 2017. The City of Virginia Beach was subsequently awarded in 50,000 credits to drive innovation on AWS' platform. The recognition helped share StormSense's replicable approach to monitoring and integrating water level data on the Amazon Marketplace via the Alexa Storm Sense skill. Through the voice-connected app, users can query their compatible smart home or mobile device via Amazon's Reverb App to ask Alexa the real-time water levels and atmospheric conditions at StormSense and USGS sensors near them.

2017 Replicable Smart City Technology, Global City Teams Challenge

StormSense was initially recognized by NIST as an active member of the Global City Teams Challenge as a tenable application to
 produce a Replicable Smart City Technology. NIST awarded the City of Newport News $75,000 to install their first suite of new sensors with the project in Sept. 2016.

2016 2nd Prize Market Bridge Challenge (Coastal Resilience Competition) 

Dr. Loftis and Kyle Spencer from the City of Norfolk won 2nd prize in the inaugural Market Bridge Challenge, a
 national flood resilience app design challenge. Their contest submission outlines proposed development of an observation network like StormSense, alongside improvement suggestions for a crowdsourcing monitoring App, Sea Level Rise. See their interactive submission here! The contest win awarded a portion of the overall cash prize provided by AeroTech and Concursive of $10,000 for recognized winners of the Coastal Resilience Competition. 

For access to a map of sensor locations and real-time data in several prominent formats for individual gauges, please visit this page or the project web site for a map of our many sensor locations. More information about StormSense can be found on the project's web site at:, embedded below:




Prominent Project Publications, Presentations, and Reports:

Loftis, J.D., Forrest, D., Katragadda, K., Spencer, K., Organski, T., Nguyen, C. & Rhee, S. (2018). StormSense: A New Integrated Network of IoT Water Level Sensors in the Smart Cities of Hampton Roads, VA.  Marine Technology Society Journal, 52(2): 56-67.  URL

Click to Access Personal Use Paper Copy

The Marine Technology Society is a not-for-profit, international, professional association. Founded in 1963, the Society believes that the advancement of marine technology and the productive, sustainable use of the oceans depend upon the active exchange of ideas between government, industry and academia. See

 For personal use only; not to be distributed in any format.

Boon, J.D., Mitchell, M., Loftis, J.D. & Malmquist, D.M. (2018). Anthropocene Sea Level Change: A History of Recent Trends Observed in the U.S. East, Gulf, and West Coast Regions. Special Report in Applied Marine Science and Ocean Engineering (SRAMSOE). No. 467. Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.  URL

Loftis, J.D. , Katragadda, K., Rhee, S. & Nguyen, C. (2018). StormSense: A Blueprint for Coastal Flood Forecast Information & Automated Alert Messaging Systems.  SCOPE '18 Proceedings of the 3rd  International Workshop on Science of Smart City Operations and Platforms Engineering , 3(1).  URL

Loftis, J.D., Mitchell, M., Atkinson, L., Hamlington, B., Allen, T.R., Forrest, D., Updyke, T., Tahvildari,  N., Bekaert, D. & Bushnell, M. (2018). Integrated Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Observations in  Hampton Roads, Virginia.   Marine Technology Society Journal, 52(2): 68-83.  URL

Click to Access Personal Use Paper Copy

The Marine Technology Society is a not-for-profit, international, professional association. Founded in 1963, the Society believes that the advancement of marine technology and the productive, sustainable use of the oceans depend upon the active exchange of ideas between government, industry and academia. See

 For personal use only; not to be distributed in any format.

Loftis, J.D., Wang, H., Forrest, D., Rhee, S., Nguyen, C. (2017). Emerging Flood Model Validation
Frameworks for Street-Level Inundation Modeling with StormSense. SCOPE '17 Proceedings of the  2nd International Workshop on Science of Smart City Operations and Platforms Engineering, 2(1), 13-18. URL