Visualizing Flooding in 3-D in Cedar Key

As part of the Think Water, Think Cedar Key events in spring 2016, a team of researchers from the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning piloted several new techniques for gathering and generating 3-D data of buildings and the terrain, and for using that data to visualize flooding scenarios in Cedar Key. The team used three different types of 3-D data techniques:

  • Geographic information systems (GIS)
  • Laser scanning
  • Physical model

Geographic Information Systems

The GIS technique created a virtual 3-D model of all of Cedar Key using a digital elevation model (for topography), satellite imagery, and the extrusion of building footprints to create three dimensional buildings, as shown below.

3-D GIS model of downtown Cedar Key

Then, possible flooding scenarios from hurricanes and future sea level rise determined in a previous project were visualized by adding a transparent blue layer at a various elevations. The next photo shows one example, which represents a storm surge flooding scenario that could occur during a moderate hurricane.


3-D GIS model with storm surge scenario


Laser Scanning

Sujin and Marty laser scanning in Cedar Key

The laser scanning technique gathered new digital data in the field to create a high resolution 3-D virtual model of the buildings, yards, and streets along a three-block section of downtown Cedar Key.

The resulting digital model created a virtual reality accurate to a few millimeters. The researcher could virtually view the data from difference perspectives and add features, such as transparent blue flood waters.

3-D laser scan of the Island Hotel

3-D laser scan of the Island Hotel with flooding visualization

Physical Model

The last technique for visualizing flooding the team piloted was a physical model created from the laser scanning data. The laser scanning produced very accurate elevation readings, which then digitally guided a router at UF’s Fab Lab to carve a large wooden board to model the streetscape. The research team also used the laser scanning data to determine building dimensions and locations, and then made the buildings out of plexiglass and glued them to the board. The model was placed in a large tank borrowed, and fitted with a hose and stand, from the UF/IFAS Cedar Key Field Office. The team filled the tank with water to simulate the flood scenarios, from the lowest up to the highest levels ever seen (over 20 feet).

Physical model on display at Think Water, Think Cedar Key

Putting It All Together

The virtual 3D GIS and laser scanning results were combined and animated in a video, which is has been on display at the Cedar Key Chamber office downtown.

Several months after creating the visualizations, physical model, and video, Hurricane Hermine struck Cedar Key, in August 2016. The pattern of storm surge during Hermine was similar to that modeled.

Mayor Davis during Hermine

UF Research Team

Marty Hylton, Director, Historic Preservation Program

Ilir Bejleri, Associate Professor, Urban and Regional Planning

Kathryn Frank, Assistant Professor, Urban and Regional Planning

Sujin Kim, Doctoral Student, Historic Preservation

Zongni Zu, Doctoral Student, Urban and Regional Planning

Luiz Ungerecht, Doctoral Student, Urban and Regional Planning

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Informal Practices for Hurricanes

The results of a new project will be presented to the public on May 31, 2018, at Cedar Key Hurricane Prep Day. The project website and print version are now available; and the project brief and posters from the event.

The project, Informal Practices for Hurricanes, documents the informal practices for hurricane preparedness, response, and recovery in Cedar Key FL, and to some extent the neighboring Rosewood area, in order to:

  1. Pass along knowledge to persons newly assisting with hurricane preparedness, response, and recovery in Cedar Key and Rosewood.
  2. Share with other communities the practices of small town and rural hurricane preparedness, response, and recovery.

This project is a special volunteer initiative between the University of Florida and the City of Cedar Key, with assistance from the Cedar Key Water and Sewer District, Levy County, and regional government agencies. The project originated from conversations between a Cedar Key official, graduate students in the UF Student Planning Association, and Prof. Frank during the cleanup following Hurricane Hermine in 2016.



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Think Water, Think Cedar Key


April 2 to May 6, 2016, in Cedar Key. A month of events focused on the deep connections between Cedar Key and water, both fresh and salt. Hosted by Cedar Key News and the City of Cedar Key, with funding provided by the Florida Humanities Council.

Speaker topics include water for people, water for natural resources, water for industry, and the power of water. The capstone address by Cynthia Barnett presents Cedar Key as a model for a 21st century water ethic.

The series features a three-dimensional physical model of Cedar Key showing various flooding  scenarios, including storm surge and long-term sea level rise. The model is designed and built by faculty and students in the College of Design, Construction and Planning, University of Florida.

For complete information, including times and locations, see the program poster below. Above photo by Steve Deam,

TWTCK Poster - Final

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Public Presentation in Cedar Key – Sep 24

Reimagining_Presentation_Flyer 100

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Reimagining the Form of Rural Coastal Communities

Flood stage post

Florida Sea Grant funded a second sea level planning project, Reimagining the Form of Rural Coastal Communities in Response to Sea Level Rise, that extends the work of the team’s project, Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County. This new project began in May, 2014 and has been working collaboratively with local and regional experts to develop, integrate, and prioritize sea level rise adaptation strategies for the Cedar Key-Rosewood area.

During the first portion of the project, team members analyzed the area’s vulnerability and developed potential adaptation strategies from four specific viewpoints: Urban Design, Coastal Hazards, Natural Resources, and Socio-economic. While developing these strategies, team members met with local and regional experts at the Senator George G. Kirkpatrick Marine Laboratory in Cedar Key to present findings and receive feedback about the stakeholders’ preferences and guidance on future research directions.

The second portion of the project focuses on integrating the strategies proposed from the four different viewpoints, choosing a priority strategy for further exploration, and developing the steps needed for its implementation.

After discussing various strategy options with local experts, the team is now focusing on developing specific policies that would provide the opportunity for innovative sea level rise adaptation to occur. The team will be meeting again with local experts in July and August to receive feedback on the policies, and a public presentation will be held in August to share the project’s findings and outcomes with the community.

The project runs through September, 2015, and we will be posting information about the August public meeting, project updates, and the project’s final report during the next few months.

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Strategies for the Vernacular Landscape of Cedar Key

Cedar Key Visconti

Cedar Key offers a charming and eclectic character like no other. As the community experiences coastal change, including from sea level rise, it is vital that the qualities that make Cedar Key the place it is are not lost and that the ways of life of the people are maintained. Adaptive planning should be carried out in a way that is sensitive to a community’s lifestyle and valued qualities.

Claudia Visconti, a recent graduate from the University of Florida’s Master of Landscape Architecture program, worked with residents of Cedar Key to determine what they valued most about their community and how these factors could be maintained or evolved in the face of sea level rise. Claudia’s thesis consisted of onsite analysis and participatory processes that allowed her to gain an understanding of many aspects of the vernacular landscape of Cedar Key. Vernacular landscape is defined as “a cultural landscape that evolved through use by the people whose activities or occupancy shaped that landscape” (The Cultural Landscape Foundation).

A three feet (one meter) sea level rise “bathtub model,” based on elevation, was used to project inundation of Cedar Key and a study area expanding five miles outside of the community. Existing physical site conditions and the sea level rise projection model allowed opportunities for relocation to be identified. Claudia engaged in a “grass roots”-type effort to show the community how these relocation opportunities can maintain or assist in the evolution of their valued spaces, places, activities, and characteristics. From these findings and her developed methodology, Claudia explains the transferability of her research to subsequent communities interested in adaptive planning that is sensitive to the vernacular landscape of a community. Claudia’s research can be used to begin the discussion of how adaptive planning can work to maintain or assist in the evolution of the ways of life of the people and their community. For more information on this topic, Claudia’s thesis document is available here: TerminalProject_ViscontiC.

Important places Visconti

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Final Project Findings Report



The Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County project has released its final, 206-page findings report. The report is the culmination of 2 ½ years of sea level rise adaptation planning and outreach funded by Florida Sea Grant and conducted by an interdisciplinary team led by the University of Florida’s College of Design, Construction, and Planning, in consultation with local leaders and community members.

The Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County project initiated planning for coastal change, with a focus on the current and potential impacts of future sea level rise, in Levy County, Florida, and its coastal communities of the City of Cedar Key, unincorporated Sumner and Rosewood, and the Towns of Yankeetown and Inglis. The final report recounts the project’s planning methods, provides information, numeric data, and maps regarding vulnerabilities to sea level rise and other coastal changes, summarizes community member feedback from project workshops, discusses local adaptive capacities, and offers recommendations for adaptation strategies and ongoing planning. The report is intended to serve as an information resource for Levy County and its coastal communities, and it provides an example of small town and rural coastal change planning and outreach for the Big Bend region and beyond. A separate coastal methods guidebook based on this project will be posted on this website in early December 2014.

The project found that Levy County and its coastal communities, while highly vulnerable to sea level rise and other coastal hazards due to their location in the Big Bend region of the Gulf of Mexico, are resourceful and resilient. There is value in addressing sea level rise with locally specific information, and many options for adaptation exist. Most optimistically, it is possible that sea level rise could open new possibilities and invigorate community and economic development, planning, and design to yield other benefits as well.

By the end of the project, Levy County institutions and organizations were using the project’s coastal change information. Most immediately for the UF team, Florida Sea Grant funded a second sea level rise planning project that began in summer 2014. The new project will work collaboratively with local and regional experts to further develop, integrate, and prioritize adaptation strategies for the Cedar Key-Rosewood area. More information and updates about this project will be posted on this website.

We are grateful for the many people and organizations in Levy County, Cedar Key, Sumner, Rosewood, Yankeetown, and Inglis, who contributed their time, knowledge, ideas, and other resources to the Planning for Coastal Change in Levy County project. Their involvement brought the project to life and gave it relevance, and without their support, the project could not have happened.

Levy County

Big Bend Region

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