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 NiƱo. 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 AwakeInMaryland:
What the heck with a barge full of hazardous materials is floating around near VA Beach?
Can't they steer that thing? I know nothing about barges.


Add on: Now, isn't that professional of them, the movie Misery will be pre-empted because of the weather news in some markets...better be mine.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting ConchHondros:
Flood if you need anything while down...shout..we wont do any wiping of anything though! Lets be up-front about all that...but anything else like cuttin' grass...meals on wheels type stuff ;-)


You guys are the best, and trust me, if there's any wiping to be done, you will NOT be on the list of those I would ask to do it...LOL
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

Sounds like a very good prognosis to me. My dad put off surgery forever, tried everything else first, got surgery, felt totally better. That was years ago. Bet techniques are better now, too.
Will you need physical therapy after? Very important if you do, but friends say it can be painful. Not anything like you've gone through already, though.
on the whole, I'd say...congrats, not much longer now.


I'll be doing therapy to regain strength and mobility but it shouldn;t be too bad...thank you, Awake, I appreciate your concern
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
What the heck with a barge full of hazardous materials is floating around near VA Beach?
Can't they steer that thing? I know nothing about barges.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
NRA - That looks like a Happy Hippo ad.
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Quoting Floodman:


You;re exactly right; I trust him...hopwefully all will go as planned and this thing will be done for at least a while
Good afternoon. Just to let you know, my husband had the surgery about 6 months ago and is feeling a lot better now. First few days were kind of tough(not painwise but mobility) but now is doing very well and able to return to work but no heavy lifting or bending. The only therapy he was advised to do after was walking and swimming. Hope all goes well for you.
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Flood if you need anything while down...shout..we wont do any wiping of anything though! Lets be up-front about all that...but anything else like cuttin' grass...meals on wheels type stuff ;-)
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Quoting Floodman:
OKay, just so everyone knows: I just got back from the surgeon and I will be having back surgery on Thursday; talked it over long and hard with the surgeon and he is confident (as am I) that the procedure fusing the L4-L5 will do as expected and that I will be back on my feet in 2 weeks or so; I should have relief from the leg pain immediately and that my back pain will subside nearly completely as the surgery heals up.

Let the wild rumpus start!

Sounds like a very good prognosis to me. My dad put off surgery forever, tried everything else first, got surgery, felt totally better. That was years ago. Bet techniques are better now, too.
Will you need physical therapy after? Very important if you do, but friends say it can be painful. Not anything like you've gone through already, though.
on the whole, I'd say...congrats, not much longer now.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting NRAamy:
Jerry...I REALLY hope it all goes well for you!


Thanks, Amy...Mrs. Flood will be sure to let everyone know how it goes
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting NEwxguy:
Flood,good luck with that,it will be such a relief to get rid of that pain.If you like the surgeon,then you trust what he's telling you.


You;re exactly right; I trust him...hopwefully all will go as planned and this thing will be done for at least a while
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Jerry...I REALLY hope it all goes well for you!
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Flood,good luck with that,it will be such a relief to get rid of that pain.If you like the surgeon,then you trust what he's telling you.
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Quoting ConchHondros:
Boss lady if lurking...stay busy and crack that whip & send us all on a long strange trip!!
Someone else is antsy too I see!
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OKay, just so everyone knows: I just got back from the surgeon and I will be having back surgery on Thursday; talked it over long and hard with the surgeon and he is confident (as am I) that the procedure fusing the L4-L5 will do as expected and that I will be back on my feet in 2 weeks or so; I should have relief from the leg pain immediately and that my back pain will subside nearly completely as the surgery heals up.

Let the wild rumpus start!
Member Since: August 2, 2006 Posts: 10 Comments: 9922
Quoting tornadodude:
howdy all

Still here? My computer refresh slower today.
How's classes, etc. Esp., the etc. part. Have you lost the "halo effect" of golden guy at work yet? Stinks when that happens.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
yeah, where is Mrs. Flood?

:)
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Boss lady if lurking...stay busy and crack that whip & send us all on a long strange trip!!
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thanks!
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Quoting hurricanejunky:
94. Great post Awake! Are you going to be deployed at some point in all this?

Hiya! I got a standby to standby from Reg. III out of Philly yesterday afternoon! Tim Kaine's emerg. declaration was attached, so I'm guessing VA...but that's all I can do, guess. Can't go 'til the State of VA officially requests help, though, bureaucratic thing, ya know. I'm excited and really want to go...so will try to get there somehow, I wear a couple hats.

I just cut and paste the situation report, but thank you, I'm happy if it was useful.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
howdy all
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Heh...the internet is your friend. :) Ordered mine from a couple of different German online grocers, though I understand they're also available in Canada.
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Greyelf...Kinder eggs? vas is das?

and where do I get them?!

:)
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RE #72 LOL...are those prizes in Kinder eggs? I've gotten a few 24 packs of those. :)
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94. Great post Awake! Are you going to be deployed at some point in all this?
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Big circulation...
I would say so.
We are having Westerly winds here in the Turks & Caicos.






StormW: " the majority of the models bringing it north of Hispaniola, stalling it for about 12-18 hours"

Hmmm... Ida hope they are wrong...
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Excerpted from this morning's Emerg. Personel Nat. Sit. Report.
Info could have been prepared last night and might not be current. There's info about the new "smart" bouy off of Annapolis.

Add-on: I quit trying to fix this, just dump the weird stuff i.e. %u2022

East Coast Nor Easter

%u2022 Region II is monitoring
%u2022 New Jersey EOC has activated at Level III
%u2022 Cape May County, New Jersey has declared a local emergency for coastal flooding
%u2022 Voluntary evacuations are in effect for local coastal residents
%u2022 No requests for Federal assistance

%u2022 Region III is monitoring
%u2022 LNO has been deployed to the Maryland EOC
%u2022 Delaware%u2019s Governor has declared a State of Emergency to marshal state resources if needed
%u2022 Virginia Governor declared a State of Emergency on November 11 to marshal state resources if needed
%u2022 Seven counties declared local emergencies
%u2022 Virginia EOC activated at Response Operations
%u2022 LNO deployed to Virginia EOC
%u2022 Chief Medical Examiner has associated two fatalities to the storm
%u2022 173,031 customers without power
%u2022 Seven shelters opened in Hampton Roads %u2013 population unknown
%u2022 25 primary roads and 172 secondary roads are closed
%u2022 Midtown Tunnel (US 58) between Norfolk and Portsmouth, VA is closed
%u2022 Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (US 13) is under Level 3 wind restrictions %u2013 closed to certain vehicles
%u2022 Jamestown-Scotland Ferry (VA 31) closed due to high winds
%u2022 Swift Water Rescue Teams are on stand-by
%u2022 No requests for Federal assistance

%u2022 Region IV is monitoring
%u2022 The states of North Carolina and South Carolina are monitoring
%u2022 The Coast Guard has set port conditions
%u2022 Port of Baltimore %u2013 port status is restricted
%u2022 Port of Hampton Roads %u2013 port status is closed


NOAA Deploys New 'Smart Buoy' off Annapolis

On November 11, 2009 NOAA deployed the seventh in a series of %u201Csmart buoys%u201D to monitor weather conditions and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay today. The buoy, located at the mouth of Severn River near Annapolis, Md., will be used by commercial and recreational boaters to navigate safely and provide data for educators and scientists to monitor the Bay's changing conditions.
Like the other six buoys in the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, it will collect weather, oceanographic, and water quality observations and transmit the data wirelessly to users in near-real time. Observations from the buoys, as well as historical and seasonal information about the Bay and educational resources, are available online and by phone at 877-BUOY-BAY (877-286-9229).
This system of high-technology buoys protects lives and property by providing real-time weather, tide, and current information that is also used to improve forecasts and warnings for boaters and neighbors in the Chesapeake Bay. (Excerpt from www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20091111_smartbuoy.html )


Earthquake Activity

On November 13, 2009 at 10:05 p.m. EST, a magnitude 6.5 earthquake occurred offshore of Chile, 60 miles south of Arica, Chile and 970 miles north of Santiago, Chile at a depth of 6.2 miles. There were no reports of damage or injury or tsunami being generated. (FEMA HQ)
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Thanksgiving is gonna be a very Hard time for some in that area,so any and all donations made will help the affected get on their feet quicker.
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Kudos to you Presslord. Please stay safe and keep us posted if possible. Hopefully your presence will make their lives that much easier in dealing with that mess.

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90. Great fast work on getting a location already.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
I just got off the phone with a couple of Poqouson town officials....much mess and muck...massive clean up over the next few weeks...we're gonna focus on feeding the volunteers and residents as they dig out...

Link

...gonna be a several week commitment..
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The wind at the mouth of the bay has finally got a little bit of a west of north component to it. The net effect is the cork has poped and now the water should start to recede some.

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Awake, that is too funny....

;)
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Radar shows a lot of moisture south of new england clipping the east end of LI,but it can't seem to push northward.
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Dan, not bad. :)

Admin. don't ban NRAAmy. There's a Star Wars weather hippo in there somewhere, the one with the laser.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Remember early in the season we were joking about a zero-zero-zero year? This is the first hurricane season I've spent relaxing at home the whole season. Hmmmm.
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Extended Forecast Discussion


CMC NOT USED DUE TO SOUTHEAST ATLC OVERDONE CYCLOGENESIS DAYS 6-7.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

I wish I'd tried to count how many blocks they traveled. Any guesstimates, let's see 9 mins. video x driving about 20-25 mph? All you geenyus science/math guys, pls. post answer... it might just get you a civilian MRE (read, not even as good as military-issue MRE).
Did anyone else happen to see the little camera these tough-talking guys were using? I think it was pink...

Wow, the Princess Leah purple hippo sure looks like a German Wagner opera Brunhilde.


It ain't over 'til the fat lady sings. (Double entendre, weather and hippo related.)
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Quoting StormW:
TROPICAL WEATHER SYNOPSIS / IDA GALE / NOVEMBER 13, 2009 ISSUED 1:15 P.M.



Thank You!
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Quoting jeffs713:

Considering how block lengths will vary, it is somewhat hard to figure out the distance they traveled, even knowing the number of blocks traveled and their speed.

Now that sounds like the answer I'd have given to the teacher (in my case, trying to make like I'd actually have the correct answer given good data).
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting TampaSpin:
I just watched the Video that was posted....Not a smart move driving through Salt water....the Electrical damage will eat those cars, trucks, and SUV's up....i know that personally the hard way....


Hey TSpin, don't have time to check the maps, Can you tell him how back they expect the weather to be on Long Island? Have a lot of family there.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23682
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

I wish I'd tried to count how many blocks they traveled. Any guesstimates, let's see 9 mins. video x driving about 20-25 mph? All you geenyus science/math guys, pls. post answer... it might just get you a civilian MRE (read, not even as good as military-issue MRE).
Did anyone else happen to see the little camera these tough-talking guys were using? I think it was pink...

Wow, the Princess Leah purple hippo sure looks like a German Wagner opera Brunhilde.

Considering how block lengths will vary, it is somewhat hard to figure out the distance they traveled, even knowing the number of blocks traveled and their speed.
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Quoting NRAamy:


PLEASE don't ban me!

That is just straight up scary. Star Wars AND hippos???!?

(and admin, please don't ban Amy.. she is entirely too cool for that)

On a more on-topic note... I find it interesting how the largest storm impact we have had this season has come from a tropical system AFTER it went extratropical.
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Quoting PcolaDan:


My Jeep Wrangler has survived it. :) But then again, I hosed it down inside, outside, underneath, under hood, motor, etc when I got back off the beach.

I wish I'd tried to count how many blocks they traveled. Any guesstimates, let's see 9 mins. video x driving about 20-25 mph? All you geenyus science/math guys, pls. post answer... it might just get you a civilian MRE (read, not even as good as military-issue MRE).
Did anyone else happen to see the little camera these tough-talking guys were using? I think it was pink...

Wow, the Princess Leah purple hippo sure looks like a German Wagner opera Brunhilde.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting NRAamy:
Grothar, you speak German? Cool! I have something I need translated!


Send it off-blog, I shall be glad to translate it. I hope it is good German and not a dialect.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 63 Comments: 23682
Quoting TampaSpin:
I just watched the Video that was posted....Not a smart move driving through Salt water....the Electrical damage will eat those cars, trucks, and SUV's up....i know that personally the hard way....


My Jeep Wrangler has survived it. :) But then again, I hosed it down inside, outside, underneath, under hood, motor, etc when I got back off the beach.
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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.