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New app aims to warn residents of flood danger

Published On: Mar 18 2014 06:18:40 PM MDT   Updated On: Mar 18 2014 06:38:00 PM MDT

Recent flooding devastated areas of southwest Montana, leading some to ask what could have been done to help prevent the destruction.

The American Red Cross hopes its new flood app can help.

Manhattan business owner Deb Wheaton lost almost everything when a flood came through her town almost two weeks ago.

Wheaton says, "If we had had any notification we would have been down here sandbagging."

By the time she made it to her bakery, Gluten-Free Prairie, the basement was under almost 10 feet of water.

Wheaton estimates the flood did $80,000 in damage. She didn't have flood insurance.

"I wish we had had just a few more minutes of warning," Wheaton said.

Helping warn residents of potential flood danger is one of the features of new app from the Red Cross. Anna Fernandez-Gevaert with the Montana Red Cross told us about the app on NBC Montana Today.

She said, "We are always very concerned that people get a warning in enough time to evacuate and hopefully even to prepare."

The app uses real-time, local information to alert people on what to do before, during and after a flood.

"It will, essentially, alert people even if the app is turned off," Fernandez-Gevaert told us. "That they need to be careful because a flood is imminent."

And it includes features like the "I'm Safe" button, a way to easily communicate to friends and family if you are in an area impacted by flood water.

Fernandez-Gevaert explained, "Anybody that you have chosen to alert that you are safe will receive that message."

We showed the app to Wheaton -- she said having a tool like this could have made a difference two weeks ago.

Wheaton said, "There's no way to know how much better it would have been, but just sandbagging the front, the water would have gone by, I think, rather than come straight in."

Wheaton says she plans on sharing the app with people in Manhattan, hoping it might help during the next flood emergency.