Record storm surges hit Mid-Atlantic coast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:22 PM GMT on November 13, 2009

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Record storm surges have caused major flooding along the North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware coasts over the past 24 hours, thanks to the powerful winds of a slow-moving Nor'easter energized by the remains of Hurricane Ida. Norfolk, Virginia, suffered its highest storm surge on record last night, when a surge of 5.96 feet hit the Sewells Point tide station. The previous record was 5.62' during Hurricane Isabel of 2003, with the Chesapeake-Atlantic Hurricane of 1933 close behind at 5.61'. Last night's peak surge did not hit at high tide, and the storm tide--the combination of surge plus the tide--peaked at 7.74' above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW), slightly below the 7.89' storm tide of Hurricane Isabel.


Figure 1. Rain gauge-measured precipitation from Ida-extratropical for the 24 hours ending at 7 am EST this morning. The storm dumped copious amounts of rain over a wide swath of coast. Image credit: NWS Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.

The highest storm surges at Sewell's Point tide gauge in Norfolk, Virginia since 1927:

5.96' Nov 2009 Ida-extratropical
5.62' Sep 2003 Hurricane Isabel
5.61' Aug 1933 Chesapeake-Atlantic Hurricane
4.73' Sep 1933 Hurricane 13, Cat 1)
4.66' Mar 1962 Ash Wednesday Nor'easter
4.05' Sep 1936 (Hurricane 13, Cat 2)

Top storm tides in Norfolk history:

1933 hurricane (Aug 23rd 1933)..............8.9 feet MLLW
April 11th 1956 Nor'easter..................8.0 feet MLLW
Hurricane Isabel (Sep 18th 2003)............7.9 feet MLLW
Ida-extratropical (Nov 12th 2009)...........7.8 feet MLLW
Ash Wednesday storm (Mar 7th 1962)..........7.8 feet MLLW

Serious coastal flooding is occurring from northern North Carolina to the Delaware/New Jersey border, with record high storm surges recorded at many locations. The storm surge at Lewes Point, Delaware at 9:48 pm EST last night reached 4.63 feet, beating the record high of 4.17' set during the January 4, 1992 Nor'easter. Tide records go back to 1919 at Lewes Point. The highest surge at any of the NOAA-maintained tide gauges from Ida-extratropical was 6.74' at 9:24 pm EST at Money Point, Virginia, located on an inlet about five miles south of downtown Norfolk.

Ida-extratropical also brought hurricane-force wind gusts to the Virginia coast yesterday, with a gust of 75 mph recorded at the Oceana NAS. The Norfolk airport recorded sustained winds of 52 mph, gusting to 70 mph, at the height of the Nor'easter last night. Heavy rains of 6 - 11 inches since Tuesday have created flooding on most of the the rivers along the entire North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland coasts. Ida-extratropical is slowly weakening and pulling away to the northeast, and the rains have ended along most of the coast, though. Virginia has now seen its highest storm surges, but this afternoon's high tide cycle is likely to bring another round of record or near-record storm tides to the coasts of Maryland, Delaware, and extreme southern New Jersey. This afternoon's high tide is forecast to bring a storm tide of 7.6' to Atlantic City, NJ, which would be the 10th highest tide there since 1911, but well short of the record 8.98' storm tide during the December, 1992 Nor'easter. By Saturday, Ida-extratropical will be on its way out to sea, and the storm surges and rains will finally abate.


Figure 2. Predicted storm tide (height above Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW, the lowest tide measured in a full 19-year natural tidal cycle, black line) for Lewes, Delaware (at the mouth of Delaware Bay), as predicted by the GFS model. A storm tide of 8.0 feet is forecast this afternoon during the high tide. For a full description of this plot, see the NOAA Extratropical Surge web site.


Figure 3. Tide gauge trace from the Sewell's Point gauge in Norfolk, VA, shows a storm surge of nearly 6 feet (green line) hit at 8:30 pm EST, with a maximum storm tide of 7.8 feet above MLLW occurring at high tide. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.

Storm surges and sea level rise
The storm surge flooding in the Norfolk area was exacerbated by the fact that sea level has risen and the land has subsided significantly over the past century. Over the past 60 years, absolute sea level along the coast of Virginia has risen by about 2.6 mm/year. However, the relative sea level has risen by 4.44 mm/year since 1927 (Figure 4), meaning that the land has sunk by about 1.84 mm/year. The net result is that the ocean is now about 1.16 feet higher at Norfolk than it was in 1927. The Norfolk tide gauge shows the highest rate of relative sea level rise of any gauge on the U.S. East Coast (though relative sea level rise is much higher along the Gulf Coast, with rises near 3 feet/century at New Orleans). Thus, today's 5+ foot storm surge brought water more than a foot higher in Norfolk than the 5+ foot storm surge of the 1933 hurricane. Storm surge damages will steadily increase along the entire coast this century as sea level rise accelerates and coastal development continues. It is urgent that government take action in coming years to limit development in vulnerable coastal regions. The ocean is going flood our sand castles that we are building in harm's way, at an ever increasing rate.


Figure 4. Monthly mean sea level at the Sewells Point, VA tide gauge in Norfolk, without the regular seasonal fluctuations due to coastal ocean temperatures, salinities, winds, atmospheric pressures, and ocean currents. The long-term linear trend is also shown, including its 95% confidence interval. Relative sea level has increased by 1.16 feet since 1927, the highest rate of rise on the U.S. East Coast. Image credit: NOAA Tides and Currents.

Portlight responding to the flooding in Virginia
Portlight.org is deploying up to 3 self-sufficient mobile kitchens capable of feeding over 2000 people a day to the Virginia coast. They will be providing meals for first responders, volunteers, and, of course, affected residents. Donations are welcome--visit the portlight blog to learn more and make a PayPal donation. Thanks!

Take action: sign the QuikSCAT letter
The QuikSCAT satellite, launched in 1999, provides crucial measurements of surface wind speed and direction over Earth's oceans twice per day. Forecasters world-wide have come to rely on data from QuikSCAT to issue timely warnings and make accurate forecasts of tropical and extratropical storms, wave heights, sea ice, aviation weather, iceberg movement, coral bleaching events, and El Niño. QuikSCAT's antenna is expected to fail within the next six months, according to engineers at NASA/JPL, and QuikSCAT data has already been removed from our global weather forecast models, due to concerns about data reliability.

There exists a narrow window of opportunity in the next few days to get the wheels in motion to launch a QuikSCAT replacement instrument on a Japanese satellite in 2015. The funding for this must start within the next budget cycle, and there is currently no funding in place for a replacement QuikSCAT. If we miss this this opportunity, it may be ten years or more before a QuikSCAT replacement can be launched. To this end, I urge all of you to sign the QuikSCAT funding letter being presented to John Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The letter is at: http://coaps.fsu.edu/scatterometry/statement/.

If you agree with the letter, please sign it (via the web site) as soon as possible: there is a very small window of opportunity to influence the next budget cycle, with this window closing within a few days.

Note that to validate your signature you must type the validation code in the bottom box. This code is the word that appears after 'code =', then click on the sign button.

For more information on QuikSCAT, see my post, The case for a new QuikSCAT satellite.


Figure 5. NASA's QuikSCAT satellite, launched in 1999. Image credit: NASA.

Expect a new blog until Monday, when I'll discuss the outlook for the remainder of hurricane season. It is finally over?

Jeff Masters

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Quoting atmoaggie:

Whew, finally learned my new thing for the day...

Been lurking some today and catching up on things needing doing over the last couple of days.


See the link on #364. Some really nice pictures of the Island. Most people are quite surprised by the natural beauty of the Island. Lakes, forests, hills and the most beautiful beaches in the country. It is also the highest per capita income in the entire U.S. Take a look if you have a chance, you will enjoy them.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Good evening, quickly, everyone.

Are we all completely exhausted from the past two weeks here? Whoa, what a way to end Season™.

Now...are we all gonna have some peaceful weather for a while?
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Quoting Grothar:


I was born on Long Island, the entire North Shore has very high cliffs extending to the middle of the Island. The South Shore is flat and sandy, as is the East End. The cliffs are quite high. Most towns on the North Shore, especially Huntington, the town in which I was born is quite hilly. Jaynes Hill in my town was over 400 feet. Not quite the Adirondacks, but very hilly country and quite beautiful. The sea cliffs are enormously high.

Whew, finally learned my new thing for the day...

Been lurking some today and catching up on things needing doing over the last couple of days.
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Wish atmoaggie was still on so he could see them. He had asked about the hills on Long Island. He would enjoy them.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Great pics Grothar!


Ever been there?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Great pics Grothar!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11394
Quoting Greyelf:


Now..,perhaps posting the video for "All Right Now" by Free might force a ban button. :)


No way. The eucalyptus grove by the Stanford bball hall smells great after it rains. See, weather reference.
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Link

Hope this works. Pictures are amazing and shows the Island through different seasons.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814


A little bigger view. Contrary to most people who have never been there, Long Island although almost 3 million people is one of the highest agricultural counties in all of New York State. Beautiful towns, beaches, mild climate and one of the best kept secrets in the country.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814


Here is one! You should see it when it snows.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Thanks for the update :)
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Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11394
Quoting atmoaggie:

Didn't know Long Island really had cliffs...


I was born on Long Island, the entire North Shore has very high cliffs extending to the middle of the Island. The South Shore is flat and sandy, as is the East End. The cliffs are quite high. Most towns on the North Shore, especially Huntington, the town in which I was born is quite hilly. Jaynes Hill in my town was over 400 feet. Not quite the Adirondacks, but very hilly country and quite beautiful. The sea cliffs are enormously high.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
358. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Warning Nr / Avis Nr 01/04 14/11/2009 0100 UTC --
System / Système TROPICAL DISTURBANCE / PERTURBATION TROPICALE --
Name / Nom -- --
Position / Position NEAR 12° 0 S - 71° 2 E 14/11/2009 0000 UTC --
Estimated minimum central Pressure / Pression minimale estimée au centre 1000 HPA --
Maxi average wind (10 mn) near the centre / Vent moyen maxi (10 mn) près du centre 25 KT (45 KM/H) --
Gust maxi / Rafales maxi 35 KT (65KM/H) --
CI Number (Dvorak scale) / Nombre CI (Classification de Dvorak) CI 2.0 --
Movement over the past 06 hours / Déplacement au cours des dernières 06 heures SSW 08 KT (15 KM/H) --
Other informations / Autres informations INCREASING RAPIDLY / S'INTENSIFIANT RAPIDEMENT

--
Madagascar Meteorological Service are calling it 04R
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 46134
It is the season. Walk into any store. Be lenient with us. It's just fun and looking forward to happy times.
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Quoting 10Speed:


Uhhh ... how high was this "cliff"?

Didn't know Long Island really had cliffs...
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A small excerpt that I think is on topic and may be of interest, especially this evening.

Movie giant MGM initially budgeted S8,000 to design, build, and photograph the first tornado. It was a thirty-five foot tall rubber cone. The problem was the tornado was too rigid and wouldn't move. It just hung there. Special effects coordinator and inventor Arnold Gillespie simply tore down the rubber tornado and tried again. Gillespie didn't know much about tornadoes but realized he couldn't go to Kansas and wait for a tornado to come down and pick up a house. So, he relied upon his background as a pilot for many years (even had his own airplane) for his next idea. He remembered that wind socks at airports resembled the shape of a tornado. He decided to make a tornado out of muslin (plain woven cloth) keeping it flexible so that it could bend, twist, and move from side to side.

Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Quoting Grothar:


all. Right, everyone.


Now..,perhaps posting the video for "All Right Now" by Free might force a ban button. :)
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i don't see nothing do you see anything
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Quoting Grothar:


I don't think so. There was snow on the ground so it wasn't that far off-topic. You were just showing the weather in St. Louis at the turn of the century is all. Right, everyone.


Exactly the point I was trying to make!
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Quoting Greyelf:
RE: 335....I'll consider flagging it just because you're making me think about Christmas long before I care to.
we got to get you guys passed turkey day yet then we worry about christmas here in the city of toronto we have the 105th annual toronto santa claus parade this sunday
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If they ban any of us....remember it is before 11:00 p.m. They should thank us for at least keeping a topic going.
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349. MZV
This storm was an interesting Nor'easter lesson. Plenty of downed trees here in Charlotte. You really should never stop watching the tropics.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
If I get banned for post #333 for the entire day...so be it.


I don't think so. There was snow on the ground so it wasn't that far off-topic. You were just showing the weather in St. Louis at the turn of the century is all. Right, everyone.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Liked that a lot KOTG....thank you!
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Actually the first A Christmas Carol was made in the late 1930's. Gene Lockhart was Bob Crachet.(sic) He was the father of June Lockhart who played the mother on Lassie and Lost in Space from the 1960's series.
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Liked tha a lot KOTG....thank you!
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RE: 335....I'll consider flagging it just because you're making me think about Christmas long before I care to.
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1951 (Way before me you smart arses) Alstair Sims in Scrooge...the best ever!
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
i like scrooge

bah humbug


Keeper, you are too funny! That is a classic, too! See you can be all bad.
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lol
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
My favorite X-Mas flick...Miracle On 34th Street


Maureen O'Hara was a beauty, even in black and white. Stunning woman.
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i like scrooge

bah humbug
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My favorite X-Mas flick...Miracle On 34th Street
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the big picture
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If I get banned for post #333 for the entire day...so be it.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
The winter season is okay on here Grothar...Since all is quiet...



Meet me in St. Louis. One of my favorite oldies. that little Margaret could cry couldn't she.
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----
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:
getting pushed back by block to the ne and approaching weakening front from west trackin ne up over james bay its trapped there till the block moves or something stronger comes to pull it poleward


I think I see what you mean. It is more evident on the animated version, but I just can't seem to be able to post them. Any chance the high might move it more SW?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
It appears ex-Ida is entraining some dry air. It is moving back over some warmer waters, though. Interesting to see what develops and might even bring some life back to the blog.
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Quoting Grothar:


Thanks Keeper. Don't like that 105 deg. though, Funny how it is being pushed back. the high must be stronger than I thought. Much appreciated.
getting pushed back by block to the ne and approaching weakening front from west trackin ne up over james bay its trapped there till the block moves or something stronger comes to pull it poleward
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
KOTG..wouldn't it stay 98L because it still is basically ex-Ida? Or as I mentioned earlier, it could be reactivated?
not sure that would be up to FMNOC and or NHC
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some tstorms evident in sat although small wrappin within coc if they can expand and organize then form a central convective area yeah could be likly that would be something else if it happen left overs of ida a n'easter redev into tropical system that would have to be some kind of record it would be like a movie called the storm that never died or somthing
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KOTG..wouldn't it stay 98L because it still is basically ex-Ida? Or as I mentioned earlier, it could be reactivated?
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


strong cirulation almost looks like invest status


Any chance of redevelopment as it moves south?
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could it become 99l
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:

heading 105 degrees ese


Thanks Keeper. Don't like that 105 deg. though, Funny how it is being pushed back. the high must be stronger than I thought. Much appreciated.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814


strong cirulation almost looks like invest status
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 175 Comments: 54827
Getting home and catching up.
Dear Chicklet, gonna see it this weekend. In the meantime, try the NPR review. I love anything that promises 40 minutes of cheesy special effects.
Link
And someone asked what we'd call a storm hitting down here from the northeast.
Link
Best to Flood, LST and Portlight.


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Quoting Chicklit:
Hello you Handsome Boy! (as Katherine Hepburne might have said).
I did meet her once in person when she was quite old and visibly shaking from Parkinson's Disease. I was sitting in the library at Hunter Radiation Therapy Center eating my lunch when the elevator door inside the library opened and there she was. Standing there. Obviously, Katherine Hepburn. A little shrunken woman by then. Of course I welcomed her in, packed up my lunch quickly, and told her I'd get the chairman of our department (radiation therapy). That was it.
I think she was grateful I didn't make her do anything and respected her privacy!
This was at Yale New Haven Medical Center where I worked for quite a few years.
Anyway, tonight I enjoyed seeing her young, at her prime. Age is indiscriminate. It takes all of us, eventually. Best to enjoy every day as you are because nothing will ever stay the same. I also cherish these moments with my mother as I know she is in her last days, months or hopefully, years.


My mother died at 97 from a MRSA infection contracted in the hospital. She had just been nominated as speaker for Broward County for the Medicare-Medicaid Review Board two months before. We still miss her. Only get one set of parents, people forget that. If I could only hear her yell at me one more time.........
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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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