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 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.........
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
From Wiki...

the home was washed away over the cliffs.


Uhhh ... how high was this "cliff"?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
hi
hope everyone stayed safe in the storm
just checking out my new apple keyboard
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Quoting Grothar:


Circulation really making its way South. Anyone still awake who can post an animated image? I am just too tired.

heading 105 degrees ese
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Chicklit...I guess I am handsome (lol)..Seriously, a great story about Katherine Hepburn!


Hey, Chiklit was referring to me as the handsome one!!!!! Weren't you Chiklit?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Hi Geoffrey, yes, lots of handsome boys out there. The challenge always is to behave yourselves. :) Anyway, the weather in ECFL was perfect today. Hope for another one tomorrow.
Enjoy life. It's more fragile than you think.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11347
Chicklit...I guess I am handsome (lol)..Seriously, a great story about Katherine Hepburn!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
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.
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11347
I asked that earlier and no one knew the answer.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
In the service and like to drink?


Actually, never did drink, still don't. But you know, when you're with the guys.......
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459


Circulation really making its way South. Anyone still awake who can post an animated image? I am just too tired.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
In the service and like to drink?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
From Wiki...
On September 21, 1938, Hepburn was staying in her Old Saybrook, Connecticut beach home when the 1938 New England Hurricane struck and destroyed her house. Hepburn narrowly escaped death before the home was washed away over the cliffs.


I guess its true. I read her book years ago and she mentioned it. She said she swam every day of the year even in Winter. I don't even go in my pool after October 1. here in FLL.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
From Wiki...
On September 21, 1938, Hepburn was staying in her Old Saybrook, Connecticut beach home when the 1938 New England Hurricane struck and destroyed her house. Hepburn narrowly escaped death before the home was washed away over the cliffs.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
My gosh Grothar...what do you do for a living?


Take a look at my Wunderphotos and you might get a hint! Still at it but in a different level. I am a translator and a few other things.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Quoting Chicklit:
Speaking of movies, going to watch 2012 tomorrow night. First movie since watching War of the Worlds with my son a couple years ago. Obviously, I don't watch movies!
Anybody seen it yet? Any reviews?(Tho I did see 'Woman of the Year' at my Mom's for dinner tonight...Career woman Katherine Hepburn sacrifices all for love of Spencer Tracy...It was funny to watch her try to make breakfast...)
Hope all is well along the Central Coast.
Are Ida-exes remains coming back this way?


Chicklit!!! How are you? I think they made 9 movies together. Did you know a little known weather fact. Katherine Hepburn was swimming in the Atlantic when the 1938 Hurricane hit New England. She almost drowned, and I believe they lost their home. Hey, weather reltated story!!!!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
My gosh Grothar...what do you do for a living?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Where are you blogging from now Grothar?


Back in Ft. Lauderdale. I have been away for a few months. Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greenland and a few other places. Forgetting my English. One night I dream in Norwegian another in German, of course when I dream in German I have to stand at attention! Quite annoying.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Alright Im out foir the night, Have a good evening.
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1601
Speaking of movies, going to watch 2012 tomorrow night. First movie since watching War of the Worlds with my son a couple years ago. Obviously, I don't watch movies!
Anybody seen it yet? Any reviews?(Tho I did see 'Woman of the Year' at my Mom's for dinner tonight...Career woman Katherine Hepburn sacrifices all for love of Spencer Tracy...It was funny to watch her try to make breakfast...)
Hope all is well along the Central Coast.
Are Ida-exes remains coming back this way?
Member Since: July 11, 2006 Posts: 14 Comments: 11347
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
There's no place like home....after a tornado or hurricane.


You better click your heels three times when you say that, buddy! LOL
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Meine Kinder Zeit, um aufs College zu gehen dieses Jahr habe ich mich hungrig ind earlir aber nie vor dem 5.
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Where are you blogging from now Grothar?
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Quoting rareaire:
Nicht alle von Florida ist wach meisten hatten Abendessen im 4 und im Bett 7


Wir essen viel später!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
i got half of it but my oma passed last year so i dont get to hear it as often as i used to!
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1601
There's no place like home....after a tornado or hurricane.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
lol Grothar...thanks to Google
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
The Wizard of Oz is on!


At least you stayed on topic. Big tornado in that move, eh?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Nicht alle von Florida ist wach meisten hatten Abendessen im 4 und im Bett 7
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Everyone's in sich für die Nacht Grothar. Gotta til die Frühschicht warten, kommt auf.


Ich glaube nicht, daß du sprichst Deutsch! Wunderbar! I warte bis Morgen früh, denn!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
290. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)


model from when 03R formed
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45570
The Wizard of Oz is on!
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Everyone's in sich für die Nacht Grothar. Gotta til die Frühschicht warten, kommt auf.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Everyone's turned in for the night Grothar. Gotta wait til the morning shift comes on.


Yo! Geoff. Are Floridians the only ones who stay up after 9:00? Nothing on TV.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
Quoting HadesGodWyvern:
Mauritius Meteorological Services

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (0100z 14NOV)
========================================

12.1S 71.4E 1003 hPa (Tropical Disturbance)

Dvorak Intensity: T2.0/2.0/D0.5 24 HRS

movement south southwest at 12 knots

THIS IS EXPECTED TO EVOLVE


You have got to be kidding? This has been the strangest season I have ever seen. Any models yet?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
can this really happen? its like a twilight episode!
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1601
Everyone's turned in for the night Grothar. Gotta wait til the morning shift comes on.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
283. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
Mauritius Meteorological Services

Tropical Cyclone Outlook (0100z 14NOV)
========================================

12.1S 71.4E 1003 hPa (Tropical Disturbance)

Dvorak Intensity: T2.0/2.0/D0.5 24 HRS

movement south southwest at 12 knots

THIS IS EXPECTED TO EVOLVE
Member Since: May 24, 2006 Posts: 51 Comments: 45570
If ex-Ida moves back south, will they call it a So'easter. If anyone answers this I know you have all lost it!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26459
flood you still on?
Member Since: August 19, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 1601
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
2012...it's just a movie NASA...
Link
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
66 here in west palm beach, fl. not far off. must be chilly for you!
It is. We get a few cool nights here during the winter but usually only down to the mid 60's.
Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8392
66 here in west palm beach, fl. not far off. must be chilly for you!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Current temperature in East End Grand Cayman is 71 F. That is downright chilly for us. LOL
Member Since: October 9, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 8392
Glad to hear that VA...wish everyone up there the best.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Sorry to hear that VA. Thought is was all over since no one was talking about it on here, as they previously were.


that should ahve been the last one, as the low is moving away. the winds have really died down though, and power is being restored. So we are on our way to recovery
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Sorry to hear that VA. Thought is was all over since no one was talking about it on here, as they previously were.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Well since the nor'easter is gone...any long-range models showing anymore cool air for Florida?


still raining here.. so its not gone yet... alot more flloding just a couple of hours ago.
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Just happy to see the nor'easter storm is over and everything is fine. At least according to the posts.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11263

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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.