Monday, October 29, 2012

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.

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