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  1. Heavy rainfall leads to severe flooding problems with catastrophic socio-economic impacts worldwide. Hydrologic forecasting models have been applied to provide alerts of extreme flood events and reduce damage, yet they are still subject to many uncertainties due to the complexity of hydrologic processes and errors in forecasted timing and intensity of the floods. This study demonstrates the efficacy of using eXtreme Gradient Boosting (XGBoost) as a state-of-the-art machine learning (ML) model to forecast gauge stage levels at a 5-min interval with various look-out time windows. A flood alert system (FAS) built upon the XGBoost models is evaluated by two historical flooding events for a flood-prone watershed in Houston, Texas. The predicted stage values from the FAS are compared with observed values with demonstrating good performance by statistical metrics (RMSE and KGE). This study further compares the performance from two scenarios with different input data settings of the FAS: (1) using the data from the gauges within the study area only and (2) including the data from additional gauges outside of the study area. The results suggest that models that use the gauge information within the study area only (Scenario 1) are sufficient and advantageous in terms of their accuracy inmore »predicting the arrival times of the floods. One of the benefits of the FAS outlined in this study is that the XGBoost-based FAS can run in a continuous mode to automatically detect floods without requiring an external starting trigger to switch on as usually required by the conventional event-based FAS systems. This paper illustrates a data-driven FAS framework as a prototype that stakeholders can utilize solely based on their gauging information for local flood warning and mitigation practices.« less