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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Hi Amy and Flood!! and um am I in the presence of the Darlin' of all Darlins' THE QUEEN DARLIN' herself !?! Hi Mrs Flood!!

Did I tell you that we only got one tenth of an inch of rain when Ida paseed by in Melrose , FL (near Gainesville) ? Should of watered my plants :)
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

As you do me.
Oh, no, is this like the reverse of Jerry's man-crushes, darlin'?


I'll have you know I have everyone crushes...my orientation is pretty aopparent though...LOL
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

As you do me.
Oh, no, is this like the reverse of Jerry's man-crushes, darlin'?


ROFLMAO!!!
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Quoting RufusBaker:
the two tone talk the two tone talk. the tropics are done.


That's easy to say with 16 days left...but what if you're wrong?

It's over on Noevember 30th (playing it safe, I am)
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Quoting NRAamy:
Awake, you crack me up...

:)

As you do me.
Oh, no, is this like the reverse of Jerry's man-crushes, darlin'?
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting NRAamy:
No problem Jerry...I can count to 12 in German, but that only gets me so far in life, you know what I'm saying?

;)

Mrs. Flood...do you speak German as well?


No, Amy, yo no hablo alemán, pero yo hablo español y francés...and a little Swedish and Vietnamese, too. My geeky daughter speaks, reads and writes Japanese! :)
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Quoting outdrsmn:
Here you go.....hurricane Floyd


Thanks. I guess the storm was pretty much blown out by the time he got that far north. I know North Carolina got nailed pretty hard with 9-10 foot surges. I was out of town when it hit, so only saw the aftermath, and lines of people waiting to get back in...
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the two tone talk the two tone talk. the tropics are done.
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Quoting floridafisherman:
NRA....

i speak german very well, if you need something translated


Was ist los, fisherman? Wie geht's?
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Quoting NRAamy:
No problem Jerry...I can count to 12 in German, but that only gets me so far in life, you know what I'm saying?

;)

Mrs. Flood...do you speak German as well?


Good for ordering donuts, I guess..LOL
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No problem Jerry...I can count to 12 in German, but that only gets me so far in life, you know what I'm saying?

;)

Mrs. Flood...do you speak German as well?
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Sorry, Amy...I was still at the surgeon's when you posted; I'm glad Grothar was there to help...
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Hi, Amy!!
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
From Wiki:

The 2010s decade, pronounced "twenty-tens", "two thousand (and) tens" or simply "the tens",is the upcoming decade beginning January 1, 2010 and ending December 31, 2019.


Sorry, Goeffrey; I was thinking about millenia, etc; the 21st century did not really start until 1-1-2001; the cross over from BC-AD did start at year 0, as I said, it started with year one
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Awake, you crack me up...

:)
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flfisherman...thanks...I didn't know there were so many people on here who spoke German!

:)
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Quoting NRAamy:
did you tell them about the twins, press?

+1, twins, +2

...that were born during a tropical storm.
(so to keep it on topic!)

AND NOW, for your Friday night viewing pleasure...some day I'm going to get in trouble for copyright infringement, but, until then, ta da:

THE WORST PLACES TO LIVE (in a Disaster Movie)

Link
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
From Wiki:

The 2010s decade, pronounced "twenty-tens", "two thousand (and) tens" or simply "the tens",is the upcoming decade beginning January 1, 2010 and ending December 31, 2019.
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NRA....

i speak german very well, if you need something translated
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Jerry, I needed you to translate some German this AM, but Grothar helped me out.....
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Jerry and Mrs. Flood!

:)
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Howdy, Conch!
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Conch, how are you?
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Quoting CybrTeddy:


2010 starts the next decade, as 2000 started this.

This year's the last of the decade.


Sorry, calendars are ordinal; a new decade begins with year one and ends at 10. Did the modern era (AD)start at year 0? Nope...started with year one
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Quoting CaicosRetiredSailor:
00PS....




http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/weather/11/13/northeast.storms/


Wow
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00PS....


Sandbridge Beach, Virginia

http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/weather/11/13/northeast.storms/
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Quoting Floodman:


Careful, Reed, there's one year left...don't tempt fate, man!


2010 starts the next decade, as 2000 started this.

This year's the last of the decade.
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23011
Quoting reedzone:


Hmm.. you're right.. let's just call it Superstorm of 2009.. Storm of the decade!


Careful, Reed, there's one year left...don't tempt fate, man!
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


My thoughts and prayers go out to all who were/are affected by this storm. Reed, by the term storm of the century, do you mean this century or the past 100 years? Either way, you believe no storms were worse in deaths and damage? I am just confused by the term storm of the century.




Hmm.. you're right.. let's just call it Superstorm of 2009.. Storm of the decade!
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Quoting Grothar:


I didn't know it was your back we were breaking. Seriously, I know everything will go well. They have made a lot of improvements with those procedures. We need you on here. Ich hoffe alles geht gut mit dir!


Danke schon, meine freundin! I'm hoping for the best, but I will accept less...any relief will be palpable after all this time...thanks!
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Quoting stormsurge39:
Is the hurricane season pretty much done for the GOM?


With 16 days or so left, it likely is, but never discount the vagaries of nature
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Lynnhaven fishing pier in Virginia Beach was very badly damaged. A couple large sections have been taken out. Little Island Pier in the Sandbridge section of Virginia Beach is probably going to be badly damaged. There is a large barge that has been beached near it, and it is drifting ever closer to the pier. Last I heard it was less than 100 feet away.

Some video:

 
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Hello, all...I see you've been brought up to speed about the old - er, um, I mean Floodman. :)
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Quoting reedzone:


That's because it is Ida, the energy and circulation became this powerful storm, but the NHC decided to stop issuing advisories because it lost it's tropical characteristics? This storm caused deaths, destruction on the Virginia coastline, a Storm of this Century indeed.. Yet no name... I think Joe Bastardi is right in calling this "Ida" even though the NHC says otherwise.


My thoughts and prayers go out to all who were/are affected by this storm. Reed, by the term storm of the century, do you mean this century or the past 100 years? Either way, you believe no storms were worse in deaths and damage? I am just confused by the term storm of the century.


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did you tell them about the twins, press?
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I'm doing an interview with the Norfolk Virginia Pilot ...and am bragging on WU community...
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Quoting PensacolaDoug:
Joe B. says keep the name as well.


That's because it is Ida, the energy and circulation became this powerful storm, but the NHC decided to stop issuing advisories because it lost it's tropical characteristics? This storm caused deaths, destruction on the Virginia coastline, a Storm of this Century indeed.. Yet no name... I think Joe Bastardi is right in calling this "Ida" even though the NHC says otherwise.
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For any Surfers out there, or people just interested in waves, here's a nice video of some of Ida's waves on the Alabama coast.

http://www.surfsmooth.com/video091110_ida/091110.html

These waves may be average size to Californians or some East Coasters, But they're considered huge to us Gulf Coasters. It's rare that we have wave this big AND offshore winds.

Mike

If the link doesn't work, just go to www.innerlightsurf.com in click on the picture.
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Joe B. says keep the name as well.
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Hurricane Ivan did something similar.
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Quoting P451:


There has always been a debate about naming nor'easters themselves. This system went extratropical but I think it should have continued to be called Ida - and just labeled as extratropical. It never lost it's punch and that would be a deciding factor to me. Had it died over land, meandered, then we had this system pop up? No. But we have continuity here and I think it should have kept it's name.

We have Tropical Depression Ida, TS Ida, Hurricane Ida, why not ExtraTropical Storm Ida? Heck, we have Sub-Tropical Storm (name here).

So, yes, I think given the severity of the system and the continuity of intensity that it should have kept the name.


Full agreement from here; it only makes sense, but then again, ours is not to reason why...
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Who knows? Ex-Ida may be reactivated and we may be see a yellow circle sometime tomorrow on the NHC TWO.
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Quoting Floodman:


As best I can tell, the end result will be pretty close to what I want; definitely a net positive if the relief is only half that advertised. Thanks, HJ for the well wishes...


I didn't know it was your back we were breaking. Seriously, I know everything will go well. They have made a lot of improvements with those procedures. We need you on here. Ich hoffe alles geht gut mit dir!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23687
Quoting Floodman:


Thanks, stormwatcher...tell your husband I hope everything continues to go well for him...I've been in this flare up for over 7 months and it gets hard to maintain a decent outlook sometimes; I'm hoping I find the relief that he did
I am sure you will. He suffered for about two years. Worked at a propane plant lifting 100 lb cylinders for 27 years which is what caused his problems. Since the surgery where they put in two steel rods and 4 screws he doesn't really have any pain unless he bends down too long. Sometimes in the morning a little stiffness but that's about it.
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175. BDAwx
Waves have picked up from the south in Bermuda. Had some flooding rains yesterday morning... but the rains weren't with Ida, they were with the invest.
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Quoting tornadodude:



+1


Hey, TD. Since you work in Meteorology, do you know of any other storm that went so far North and seems to be "POSSIBLY" going back SE, that turned back to become a Tropical system again? I would be very ex-Ida-ed to know the answer!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23687
Floodman,

Just read back about your surgery next week. Good luck to you and hope it all works out just fine and is a total success! We all will be thinking about your.


hello everyone,
I see "x - Ida" is still doing a number on the Mid Atlantic Coast. been lurking a little but not posting.

Take care everyone and enjoy your weekend.


And Sure hope this is our LAST Tropical watch for the year!
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Quoting stormsurge39:
Is the hurricane season pretty much done for the GOM?
Sure hope so, but to quote Yogi " It ain't over 'til it's over!"
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Winds have picked up a bit more in the last little while... UKMO suggesting it's gusting up to about 50 here.

80mph in Wales by now. Apparently, will get worse overnight, before the weather clears late Saturday/early Sunday.
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.