Saturday, November 3, 2012

Looking Back at Sandy's Surge

Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the Mid-Atlantic Coast this week with ferocious winds, record-setting storm surge and destructive waves. While the economic toll from this disaster could total up to $50 billion (Huffington Post, November 2, 2012), the staggering human loss has made this storm a catastrophe. The latest death toll has risen to 80 fatalities in the U.S., including 38 victims in New York City (New York Times, November 2, 2012.)

The record-breaking storm surge, which smashed ashore most viciously in New Jersey and New York, caused many of these fatalities and much of the damage. On Staten Island, for example, a two-year-old boy drowned when the surge swept him from his mother’s arms (New York Times, November 1, 2012). Photos of the surge damage depict homes which were either smashed to pieces or floated off their foundations, as well as debris-covered streets, which were also buried under feet of sand.

Preliminary surge observations have provided a maximum surge level of 14.6 feet at Bergen Point, NJ ( However, surge levels were devastatingly high all along the New Jersey Coast, in the metropolitan New York City area, on Long Island, and even in coastal New England.

Battery Park, NY, located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island, set a new record high water level of 17.33 feet above the station datum, a vertical reference line for measuring water heights. This water level was reached through a combination of high astronomical tides and a 9.23-foot storm surge, which is the storm-driven water height above normal tide levels. Such high water levels enabled salt water to pour over sea walls in Lower Manhattan and inundate the subway system under many feet of water.
Sandy’s water level at Battery Park broke Hurricane Donna’s (1960) previous high-water record by more than four feet. It is also interesting to note that Hurricane Sandy’s massive surge comes just 14 months after Hurricane Irene inundated much of the coastline, producing the fourth highest water level of all time at Battery Park.

These surge observations will be incorporated into SURGEDAT, the world’s most comprehensive storm surge archive. This dataset has been developed through funding made possible by NOAA-funded SCIPP, the Southern Climate Impact Planning Program. SURGEDAT has identified the peak storm surge level in more than 450 global surge events since 1880, including more than 300 events in the United States. Recently this dataset was expanded to include the entire inundation footprint for more than 240 U.S. surge events. These footprints contain more than 6,100 historic storm surge observations in the United States.

These data are useful for coastal decision makers, emergency management professionals, insurance professionals, as well as coastal scientists and storm surge modelers. For example, such data are very useful for risk-assessment studies, which identify critical inundation thresholds, such as the 100-year storm surge level for a given location. These data are also useful to validate storm surge models, which often need actual observed data to validate model runs.

Prior to Sandy’s landfall, SCIPP mapped out hurricane paths and inundation envelopes for five previous hurricanes that generated storm surges in the New York City area. These maps provided historical context as Sandy approached. One of the key messages of these historical maps is that Sandy’s storm track was unprecedented along the Mid-Atlantic Coast. These maps also provided evidence that the area of coastline near New York City is very effective at funneling in storm surge, presumably because water gets trapped in this area. Storm surge levels during the 1944 Hurricane and Hurricane Donna (1960) were higher in this region than other areas along the coast- a realization that hopefully encouraged many people in the metro New York area to evacuate Sandy’s devastating storm surge.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Few Storm Surge Photos from Hurricane Sandy

Surge inundating Battery Park, NY on Monday, October 29. Source:

Surge pours down an elevator shaft in New York City on Monday, October 29. Source:

Storm surge pours into New York City on Monday, October 29, 2012. Source:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Catastrophic Storm Surge Pounds Northeast

Storm surge levels in The Battery, or southern region of Lower Manhattan, have exceeded nine feet this evening. Storm tide (surge + tide) levels are approaching 14 feet, which means water has almost certainly flooded Lower Manhattan. Source: NOAA Tides and Currents

Surge levels at King's Point exceeded 12 feet earlier this evening. Fortunately the peak surge arrived near low tide. Although surge levels are slowly falling, high tide is approaching, which is keeping the total water level over 13 feet. These levels mean flooding is likely occurring over portions of northern and northeastern NYC. Source: NOAA Tides and Currents

Sandy's catastrophic storm surge has arrived along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast. A brief update on water levels:

1. Water levels in The Battery are 13.81 feet above Mean Lower Low Water (a datum over which we measure surge levels.) This is more than nine feet above normal tide levels for this evening, and may move Sandy's surge into first place all time for this location. However, these data must be adjusted for tides and datums, then compared on equal footing with other storms.

2. Storm surge levels exceeded 12 feet at King's Point, on the southwest portion of Long Island Sound. This is a tremendous surge level for this area, as Sandy pushed water from E to W through the Sound. This likely flooded portions of New York City, including the eastern Bronx.

3. Winds in the New York metro area have shifted more towards the south, which has increased surge levels near The Battery but enabled surge levels to drop a bit at King's Point.

Water levels overnight will remain extremely localized, but will likely be highest in areas such as Northern NJ, The Battery and portions of NYC exposed by water to the south and southeast, as well as the south coast of Long Island. Strong southerly winds will also make it difficult for excess water to drain out of Long Island Sound.

Listen to Isaac


We would be prudent to listen to the words of Isaac Cline, the Chief Meteorologist at Galveston, Texas, when the great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 hit. Prior to landfall, the winds were blowing strong offshore, yet water levels were rising. Then, as the storm made landfall, the winds quickly changed direction and the water levels rose incredibly fast!

Read his words below....especially the quote that, "the sudden rise of 4 feet brought it [the water] above my waist before I could change my position."

Quote from Isaac Cline:

The water rose at a steady rate from 3 p.m. until about 7:30 p.m., when there was a sudden rise of about four feet in as many seconds. I was standing at my front door, which was partly open, watching the water, which was flowing with great rapidity from east to west. The water at this time was about eight inches deep in my residence, and the sudden rise of 4 feet brought it above my waist before I could change my position.

Story source:

Bringing this back to Hurricane Sandy:

Winds right now are generally blowing from the northeast across much of coastal NJ and NY. This is driving water down Long Island Sound from east to west, causing the highest surge levels (according to NOAA Tides and Currents) of more than eight feet at King's Point (on extreme SW Long Island Sound.) Surge levels at Battery Park are between 6.5 and 7 feet. 

Beware of sudden water level rise in The Battery, NYC area, and south-facing shores of Long Island, this evening. After Sandy makes landfall in NJ, winds will quickly change direction, blowing in from the SE, then S, which may cause rapid water-level rises near NYC. You may not have time to escape the sudden water-level rise.

Sandy Pounding Coast with Surge and Waves


Sandy is pounding the East Coast with surge and waves. Surge is overwashing roads and flooding buildings in some places. This pic above shows wave action slamming the coast on Long Island.

Speaking of Long Island, the highest surge level available right now on the NOAA Tides and Currents is actually from Kings Point, on the extreme southwest portion of Long Island Sound, where surge levels are 7.62 feet, as of approximately 5:00PM EDT. This means winds are blowing hard from the E or NE, pushing water down Long Island Sound from E to W.

Surge levels at Sandy Hook, NJ were 7.37 feet, and in other portions of coastal NJ and NY, surge levels ranged from 5 to 7 feet. Large, destructive waves are riding on top of this surge.

Sandy is forecast to make landfall in the next few hours. Peak surge levels often occur near the time of landfall, to the "right" of the storm path.

Take note- after Sandy makes landfall, the wind direction in Northern NJ, NYC, and Long Island, should be from the southeast. This will likely produce even higher surge levels in these areas, even though the eye of the hurricane already hit the coast. Winds will eventually come from the south on Tuesday, which will push surge into the southern portion of Long Island, Long Island Sound, CT, RI, and MA. Southerly winds may keep surge levels near NYC high through Tuesday.

Some areas of southern Long Island may be experiencing offshore winds, if winds are howling from the northeast right now. This may serve to temporarily reduce surge levels, however, when winds come from the southeast or south later, surge levels may rapidly rise.

High water is washing over the roadway in Ocean City, MD

Lessons from Previous Storms

One last entry this morning. Just wanted to quickly summarize two main points that we can learn from storm surge history of the Mid-Atlantic/ Northeast Coast.

1. No storm in modern history has taken this track

The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) recently plotted maps which depict the storm tracks and storm surge/ storm tide levels of previous hurricanes to impact the Mid-Atlantic/ Northeast Coast. An interesting observation is that no previous hurricane in modern history has taken a track similar to Hurricane Sandy, which will approach the coast from the southeast.

That said, it is important to realize we're entering unprecedented territory with this storm. This means we should have lower confidence in surge forecasts because we've simply never been here before and have not been able to validate surge models. It's always prudent to approach uncertainty with caution, and all interests along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast, particularly in New Jersey, the New York City area, and Long Island, should be prepared for a catastrophic storm surge potentially exceeding 12 feet.

2. The 1944 Hurricane and Hurricane Donna (1960) demonstrated the ability of surge to pile up in "the corner" near New York City

Although the 1944 Hurricane and Hurricane Donna (1960) passed to the east of New York City, the highest surge levels in the area were near the city/ Northern New Jersey, even though these areas were on the "weak" side of the storm (see maps on previous blog post.) This should prove as a testament of the ability of that section of coast to trap storm surge and quickly enhance surge levels.

What will happen this time, as this portion of coast (Northern Jersey/ NYC) is in the area of highest surge risk for the first time? We don't know, as this is new territory, but an abundance of caution should be taken and people in this area should follow evacuation areas as communicated by authorities.

Comparing Sandy to a "typical" Mid-Atlantic hurricane

Hurricane Sandy's track, or storm path, will likely help generate a catastrophic storm surge along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast Monday and Tuesday, including the New York City area. This storm is taking an unprecedented track, as it turns to the northwest and will make landfall at a more perpendicular angle to the coast, unlike most storms, which travel along the coast. The graphics above show the difference between Sandy and "typical" Mid-Atlantic hurricanes.

The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) identified surge and storm tide levels in other destructive hurricanes that impacted New York City (see earlier blog post). All of these previous storms took a track "along the coast," which means Sandy's path, and storm surge, may be unprecedented.

All interests from the Delmarva Pensinsula to Cape Cod should monitor this storm closely. The largest and most destructive surge will likely occur to the north of landfall, in Northern New Jersey, the New York City area, Long Island and Long Island Sound. Keep in mind that Sandy is a very large storm, so surge levels will rise rapidly long before the storm makes landfall, likely inundating evacuation routes by early Monday.

Sandy to bring unprecedented, catastrophic surge to Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast

Sandy to Generate Unprecedented Storm Surge in Northeast

Hurricane Sandy will generate an unprecedented storm surge along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast on Monday and Tuesday. In this blog post, I will answer questions I’ve been receiving about this surge event.

1.    Will Sandy’s surge really be worse than previous storms?

Sandy will likely produce a large and destructive storm surge along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast Coast. Sandy’s track, or storm path, is unprecedented, so it’s a bit difficult to compare this storm with other surge events. Unfortunately, Sandy will approach the coast from the southeast and make landfall south of New York City. This is likely the worst-case-scenario track for New York. Surge tends to pile up to the right of the storm track, and this storm will very effectively pile up water in New Jersey, New York, and Southern New England.

2.    Is it a good sign that Sandy is forecast to “miss” New York and make landfall in New Jersey?

Sandy’s forecast landfall along the central New Jersey Coast is actually a worst-case storm track for the New York City area, at least in regards to storm surge generation. THIS STORM TRACK HAS NEVER BEEN OBSERVED IN MODERN HISTORY, so there is a lot of uncertainty as to what it means. It is very possible that a catastrophic surge will devastate the coast, especially in Northern New Jersey, New York City and Long Island, with a peak surge that could exceed 12 feet in some areas.

Keep in mind that a large hurricane like Sandy will generate very widespread and severe impacts, so it will be hard to “miss” this storm, even if the track shifts. Catastrophic storm surge may extend from the Delmarva Peninsula to Cape Cod. The exact track will not matter so much for many people, unless you manage to get on the “left” side of the storm track, where surge levels will be much lower.

3.    When should I evacuate?

Sandy has a very large wind field. This enables the storm to push a lot of water, even long before the storm approaches landfall.

Hurricane Ike was a large hurricane that hit Texas in 2008. Although the storm was only a category-2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, its massive size enabled it to push tremendous amounts of water, flooding evacuation routes as long as 24 hours before landfall. More than 600 people had to be evacuated from the Bolivar Peninsula because they waited too long, and their evacuation routes were flooded by the time they decided to leave.

If you’re in coastal New Jersey, low-lying areas of New York, coastal Long Island or Long Island sound you may need to evacuate ASAP to avoid drowning in this event! This may be a life and death scenario for many people in coastal communities!

4.    How does Sandy’s surge height and extent compare to other hurricanes?
The Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program (SCIPP) at Louisiana State University and the University of Oklahoma has created the world’s most comprehensive storm surge database, which has now identified more than 6,000 high water marks along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. We’ve identified surge and storm tide levels for several major storms that impacted the New York City area. See previous blog posts for the storm track and water levels of these storms.

The major difference with Sandy is that it is taking an unprecedented track. Instead of moving northward, along the coast, the storm is forecast to take a turn to the west and make landfall in a more perpendicular fashion (coming at the coast instead of riding along the coast.) This should much more effectively pile up water in Northern Jersey, near New York City, along Long Island and Long Island Sound.

5.    What exactly is storm surge? Does that water level include waves?
A storm surge is really a dome of sea-water that is elevated. This dome may extend for hundreds of miles. The storm surge level is the height to which the sea level is raised above normal, and this height does not include waves. Think of it as a new sea level.

So if a community with an elevation of five feet above sea level is inundated with a 12-foot surge, this means the water will be about seven feet above street level. This water level does not include large, destructive waves that will pound buildings near the coast.

6.    What do you mean when you say water will be “pushed into the corner” near New York City?
The shape of the coastline can greatly increase the storm surge levels. Concave areas of coastline, which bend “inward,” generally trap storm surge and create higher water levels. The coastline near NYC curves on a sharp angle, which will greatly elevate surge levels, especially if a storm makes landfall south of NYC. However, storms usually approach NYC from the south, and curve to the east before approaching the city, making this piling up process less effective.

For our friends in the Northeast who are more accustomed to shoveling snow than dealing with hurricanes, think of this example. Do you know how snow can pile up in a corner when you have to shovel your driveway? As you push snow along and you approach a corner, the snow piles up quickly there because it has nowhere to go but up. This is very similar to what can happen in a hurricane. Sandy is pushing tons of water towards NJ and NY and this water is essentially trapped in a sharp angle of the coastline.

Hurricane Isaac generated a surprisingly high storm surge in coastal Louisiana this summer as it pushed water against a similar “corner” along the Mississippi Delta. Many people were shocked that a category-1 hurricane was able to generate a surge greater than 13 feet high. However, this large storm kept piling water up against this “corner” in the coastline, producing a devastating surge in some communities.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Irene (2011)

Just last year, Hurricane Irene pounded much of the East Coast with extensive surge and torrential rain. Storm tide levels in the New York City area reached around 8-10 feet, depending on the source, and some people say the water came within a few inches of topping the wall at Battery Park. Therefore, New York City barely dodged a bullet, as the subway system and critical electrical infrastructure could flood if the sea wall is overtopped with storm surge. We can only hope to dodge another bullet with Sandy! Note: The track for this storm is not yet available.

This is the fifth and final historic map of hurricanes that generated storm surge/ storm tide in the NYC area.

Hurricane Gloria (1985)

Hurricane Gloria tracked right along the East Coast and made landfall just east of New York City in 1985. This storm gave me a vacation day when I was in fifth grade! I didn't see any storm surge, but I do remember extensive flooding in the Allentown, PA area, as more than seven inches of rain fell. The highest official surge observation in SURGEDAT with this storm was along the Outer Banks of North Carolina. However, we must investigate this storm a bit more. When I was in Saybrooke, CT a few years ago, locals told me that Gloria produced the highest surge in memory.

This is the fourth of five historic maps related to hurricanes that produced storm surges in the NYC area.

Hurricane Donna (1960)

Hurricane Donna made landfall in North Carolina, then reemerged into the Atlantic, before making a second landfall in eastern Long Island. This storm produced a record-breaking 11-foot storm tide at Battery Park in New York City ( Note that Donna, like the 1944 storm, produced a higher storm tide to the left of its track, near New York City, than it did on the "strong side" of the storm.

This is the third of five maps depicting storm surge/ storm tide history for storms that impacted the New York City area.

The 1944 Hurricane

The 1944 Hurricane produced terrific wind damage in Southeastern New England, and dangerous storm surge from New Jersey to Cape Cod. It is interesting to note that the highest water levels occurred to the west of the storm track, in coastal New Jersey. Such observations may provide evidence regarding the vulnerability of northeastern New Jersey and the New York City area to surge. The coast bends at a sharp angle near New York City, which can trap water and elevate surge levels in this area.

This is the second of five maps depicting historic storms that generated storm surge that affected the New York City area.

The 1938 Hurricane

The 1938 Hurricane produced a massive surge and storm tide that exceeded 10 feet from near New York City east to near New Bedford, Massachusetts. Although the storm made landfall as a category-1 hurricane, it packed category-3 winds less than 12 hours before landfall on Long Island.

This is the first of five maps depicting historic storms that generated storm surge that affected the New York City area.

Sandy likely to slam Mid-Atlantic Coast

Sandy is forecast to slam the Mid-Atlantic Coast early this week. Although the storm will likely make landfall early Tuesday morning, wind and surge impacts will likely begin to worsen on Monday. This image from the GFS model forecasts Sandy to be wound up with a steep pressure gradient, centered off the Delaware or New Jersey Coast on Monday afternoon.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Sandy May Be A Dandy

All eyes are on Hurricane Sandy as she moves north in the northern Bahamas this morning. (See image from NHC above.) Sandy is forecast to track north, then northeast, and then do something rather unprecedented- turn back towards the northwest and make landfall somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic Coast.

Given the current forecast, Sandy could generate a devastating storm surge in the Mid-Atlantic States, New York City area, Long Island, and the southern coast of New England.

It is unusual for storms to curve back to the northwest or west once they track from south to north and pass the Carolinas.

This unusual path may be a worst-case track for some areas, at least for storm surge generation. Given the current forecast, coastal New Jersey and New York would be on the strong side of the storm with strong onshore winds. Typically, hurricanes curve to the northeast, keeping these areas on the weak side of the storm.

It is important that coastal interests do not look too much at the storm category and compare Sandy to storms like Irene (2011) or Gloria (1985). These storms tracked along the coast, but did not curve back to the west like the forecast for Sandy. Even if Sandy becomes a tropical storm or a sub-tropical system, under the current forecast, this event could pile up considerable water along the coast, including in the New York City area.

Stay tuned to the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service and local media for updates. SCIPP is not involved at this time with surge models for this area, but other universities and agencies may produce interesting surge models/ forecasts, particularly because this event could be potentially catastrophic for this highly populated coastline.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hurricane Isaac Preliminary Maximum Storm Surge Levels

I've comprised a list of preliminary Hurricane Isaac maximum storm surge levels, taken from NOAA Tides and Currents (National Ocean Service), USGS tide gauges, and at least one anecdotal source. This list will probably grow as more data become available. Later this fall or this winter, the list will become official, as verified surge data and published reports become available.

Rank Level_ft   Station Name State Agency/ Source Datum
1   13.6   Lake Borgne Surge Barrier LA NAT
2   11.02   Shell Beach LA NOS NAT
3   10.9   Little Irish Bayou at I-10 LA USGS NAVD88
4   8   Bayou Laloutre at Ycloskey LA USGS NAVD88
4   8   Bay Waveland Yacht Club MS NOS NAT
6   7   Pass Manchac LA USGS NAVD88
7   6.2   New Canal Station LA NOS NAT
8   6.1   Liberty Bayou at Hwy 433 LA USGS NAVD88
9   4.6   Coast Guard Sector Mobile AL NOS NAT
10   4.4   Pascagoula NOAA Lab MS NOS NAT
11   4.3   Chickasaw Creek AL NOS NAT
12   4.2   Grand Isle LA NOS NAT
13   4   Mobile Bay at Hwy 193 AL USGS NAVD88
13   4   Pilots Station East, SW Pass LA NOS NAT
15   3.55   Dauphin Island AL NOS NAT
16   3.5   Pensacola FL NOS NAT
17   2.5   Panama City FL NOS NAT
18   2.2   Lawma, Amerada Pass LA NOS NAT

Note: NOAA Tide and Currents (NOS) data are storm surge levels, or height above normal astronomical tide. USGS data are storm tide levels, measured above NAVD88 level. All data are preliminary.

How do these data fit into the larger context of storm surge history along the U.S. Gulf Coast? Are any of these surge levels unprecedented for a category-1 hurricane? How do these water levels compare to other surges in a specific location?

Although it's impossible to answer all of these questions on the surge blog, if you have specific questions like these, please contact "Hurricane" Hal Needham at Hal maintains SURGEDAT, the world's most comprehensive storm surge database. SURGEDAT has currently archived more than 6,000 coastal high water marks produced by hurricanes and tropical storms along the U.S. Gulf Coast and U.S. Atlantic Coast. SURGEDAT also contains data for more than 250 peak surge events that have occurred internationally since 1880.

Lake Pontchartrain remains elevated, likely enhanced rainfall flooding

Lake Pontchartrain remains elevated today, more than three days since Hurricane Isaac made landfall in southeast Louisiana. Although the lake level has slowly been falling since early Thursday, the level was still about three feet above normal earlier this morning, according to the NOAA Tides and Currents gauge at New Canal Station on Lake Pontchartain. The water level at this location was at least four feet above normal for approximately 60 hours, beginning at around 10PM on Aug 28th until around 10AM on Aug 31st.

According to preliminary levels provided by NOAA Tides and Currents, the maximum level at New Canal Station was around 6.2 feet above normal. A USGS site at Pass Manchac, between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Maurepas, reported a preliminary level of around 7 feet.

The prolonged storm surge event in Lake Pontchartain may have contributed to enhanced flooding from heavy rainfall around the lake. Flooding occurred in several communities near the lake, including Laplace, Mandeville and Slidell. It's likely that heavy rainfall could not drain as quickly as normal due to the storm surge inundation at the lake.

A similar situation happened in June near Tampa, Florida, when heavy rainfall runoff from Tropical Storm Debby was impeded by elevated water levels in Tampa Bay due to storm surge. Also, respondents to the Gulf Coast Climate Information Needs Assessment survey in the Houston/ Galveston area noted that heavy rainfall runs off slower when the level of Galveston Bay is elevated. (link: It appears that this pattern is widespread and most likely applies to some of the flooding caused by Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Surge levels exceed six feet along MS Coast, Lake Pontchartain

Caption: Storm surge in Mississippi. Source:

Storm surge levels exceed six feet along the Mississippi Coast and Lake Pontchartain shoreline tonight, according to NOAA Tides and Currents gauges. Persistent south winds are keeping storm surge pushed into the Mississippi Sound, which both floods the Mississippi Coast and hinders the outflow of high water in Lake Pontchartain. Meanwhile. surge levels in Shell Beach, LA, have fallen below five feet, as water is being pushed away from this community and into Lake Borgne.

High water has been reported in several communities that drain into the Gulf or Lake Pontchartrain Basin. WAFB interviewed people in the Lake Pontchartain watershed who were flooded for the first time. These people said they were not flooded from any other tropical systems, including Hurricane Katrina. Apparently, heavy rain water is not draining as quickly as normal, due to elevated water levels in Lake Pontchartain, the LA and MS coastal region.

This phenomenon is consistent with observations from Tropical Storm Debbie in Florida this past June, which flooded many communities as rainwater drained slowly due to elevated water levels in Tampa Bay. Also, SCIPP conducted 62 weather/ climate needs assessment surveys this past year, finding that several stakeholders in the Houston/ Galveston area reported slow rainwater drainage when water levels are elevated due to elevated surge levels in Galveston Bay.

Such impacts are localized, but are important for those affected. It's also important to realize that some of these flood patterns are representative of a large, slow-moving hurricane or tropical storm, which dumps large amounts of rain. Although the history books may not remember Isaac as destructive as Katrina, for some people the impacts of Isaac were worse.

Such lessons may also help us to look separately at the severe weather impacts of future hurricanes. Hurricanes generally throw a three-pronged threat at us, as we are threatened by strong winds, heavy rain and storm surge. It is helpful to think through the potential impacts for each of those hazards with any given storm, which may change drastically, depending on the size, forward speed and duration of the storm.

Surge Levels Holding Steady in Coastal Mississippi

Storm surge levels are holding steady in coastal Mississippi. In fact, we've seen some slight rises this morning, as winds have turned more to southeast and are driving water into shore. Surge levels at 10:00AM were approaching 8 feet above normal at Bay Waveland Yacht Club, MS. Here is a graphic of recent water level heights at this location. The red line represents the storm tide (total water level) and the green line represents storm surge levels (water heights above normal). Source: NOAA Tides and Currents

Source: NOAA Tides and Currents

Isaac Surge Pics

Storm surge started flooding much of coastal Mississippi, Lake Pontchartrain and locations east of the Mississippi River, including St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes in Southeast Louisiana, Tuesday. Here are a few pics available on the surge flooding along the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

Power outage will kill this blog....for awhile

Hey everyone-

I'm based in Baton Rouge, which is supposedly in the cross hairs of Isaac, at least once it starts moving inland. I'm expecting to lose power sometime tonight or tomorrow morning, in which case this blog will go down for awhile. I know that's a lame excuse. I really need to hook up a gas-powered generator to keep this train rollin'!

Surge observations and reports in the wee (wii?) hours of the morning

A few surge observations in the wee hours of the morning. Or is it Wii hours of the morning? Perhaps Wii needs to make a hurricane/ surge game?

NOAA Tides and Currents reports the following surge obs as of around 1:30AM CDT Wednesday.

Location                                          Surge Height (ft)
Shell Beach, LA                             10.86
Bay Waveland Yacht Club, MS      7.28
New Canal Station, LA                   4.37
Pascagoula NOAA Lab, MS           4.26
Coast Guard, Mobile, AL                3.86
Pilots Station East, SW Pass, LA     3.55

Shell Beach, LA continues to lead the pack of observed surge obs, with a water level of nearly 11 feet above normal. Storm surge is also inundating the Mississippi Coast, with a current level of 7.28 feet above normal at Bay Waveland Yacht Club.

Slightly after midnight tonight, WAFB reported that storm surge was overtopping levees in Plaquemines Parish, LA. They specifically mentioned overtopping in the communities of Buras and Pointe-a-la Hache. Does anyone know levee heights in those areas?

Also, if anyone has surge obs, pictures or video, please comment on this blog or contact me at

Isaac's 11.02-foot surge moves it into fifth place all-time at Shell Beach, LA

Hurricane Isaac's storm surge reached 11.02 feet at 11:36PM CDT this evening at Shell Beach, LA. Water levels were rising during the afternoon and evening as strong winds howled out of the north-northeast and northeast. In the first hours of Wednesday, water levels at Shell Beach dropped slightly, but remained close to 11 feet.

SCIPP/ SURGEDAT has identified peak surge levels for 15 tropical cyclones at Shell Beach. Isaac's 11.02-foot surge moved it into fifth place all time, surpassing water levels produced by Flossy (1956), Gustav (2008), Betsy (1965) and Ike (2008). Isaac now joins some noteworthy company for surge events in this area, and the maximum level during Isaac is just a fraction of an inch lower than Camille's surge height in this area.

Top 10 surge heights for Shell Beach, LA in the SURGEDAT database:

Rank    Storm        Year    Max Water Level (ft)
1          Katrina      2005   18.7 (storm surge)
2          Unnamed   1915   11.6 (storm tide)
3          Unnamed   1947   11.2 (storm tide)
4          Camille      1969   11.06 (storm tide)
5          Isaac           2012  11.02 (storm surge)
6          Flossy         1956  10.9 (storm tide)
7          Gustav        2008   9.53 (storm surge)
8          Betsy          1965   9.34  (storm tide)
9          Ike              2008   7.51 (storm surge)
10        Unnamed    1901   6.7  (storm tide)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reed Timmer's streaming surge video

Check out Reed Timmer's streaming surge video, which is broadcast live from Waveland, MS this afternoon. Footage in the past hour showed water streaming in over the roadway. 

Here is the link: