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 Grothar:


I read a very interesting article on Vancouver Island in National Geographic a while back. They showed it from 1850 to present and the tremendous amount of deforestation that had taken place and the different levels of trees which had been replaced. Still nowhere where it once had been. How bad is a system like that when you get such a heavy rain so quickly?


Actually you are mislead by that kind of article.

Do we use Block clear cutting.. yes.
Do we replant every tree cut... yes.
Do we have a deforestation problem... No
Will it cause problems in heavy rains... Maybe in a fresh area (which we no longer do)

Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Floodman:


PAinful...I don't know what it is; I hurt worse now knowing that I'll be having the surgery this week than I did before I knew about it...sleep has been rather hard to come by


You certainly don't have to answer, but what procedure are the using?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
I guess we are a cult of three tonight. Probally a lot of lurkers thinking, what the heck are they talking about!

UH, yea!
Member Since: August 22, 2008 Posts: 12 Comments: 6010
Flood...just know the surgery will make the pain go away. It may take awhile afterwards, but it will go away. Anxiety is a normal reaction before surgery, but concentrate on the end result.
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Quoting pottery:
Ouch, Flood.
Take care, man.


I'm good pottery...just waiting...how have you been? I typically log out as you're coming in or coming in as you're going out.
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:

Yeah, and where are your other friends?

(Sorry, Patriots fan here, who has to admit major grudging admiration for Colts..."our" Baltimore Colts from the Jurassic period.)


Wow, that was rather a shocker, huh? Never count Peyton Manning out

My other friends? Well, one just left (LST, the wonderful Mrs. Flood made Jambalya) and the rest are likely sleeping...aside from you folks
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Quoting Orcasystems:
There is something seriously wrong with this post, I am not suppose to be in any AOI's :(



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Ahhhh, yes you are!! It is currently British Columbia's turn to get the blast from the "Pineapple Express". This is a weather pattern that will continue on and off from now until mid March 2010, affecting the W Coast of Canada and the USA.

I hope that you and yours, including everyone in BC are safe through this storm. I know that the situation is very serious. Just hang tough and hopefully by Tuesday everything will pass through.
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Ouch, Flood.
Take care, man.
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Quoting Grothar:


Flood!!! How goes it?


PAinful...I don't know what it is; I hurt worse now knowing that I'll be having the surgery this week than I did before I knew about it...sleep has been rather hard to come by
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Quoting Orcasystems:


Yup... its gonna be wet.. gonna screwup my Tee time.


I read a very interesting article on Vancouver Island in National Geographic a while back. They showed it from 1850 to present and the tremendous amount of deforestation that had taken place and the different levels of trees which had been replaced. Still nowhere where it once had been. How bad is a system like that when you get such a heavy rain so quickly?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Quoting Floodman:
There's nothing wrong with insomniacs...some of my best friends are insomniacs!

Yeah, and where are your other friends?

(Sorry, Patriots fan here, who has to admit major grudging admiration for Colts..."our" Baltimore Colts from the Jurassic period.)
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
HMMmm, that sounds serious, actually.
12" is PLENTY rain, around hills and valleys.
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well im still watching ex Ida low moving southward slowly but surely , now at 30 north 66 west,wonder what i would do with marginally favored wind shear in the area and warmer sea temperature waters,,could it re intensifies again? well time will tell. Just curious.
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Reminded me of the Saints - Fins game. Heartbreaker for me :(
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You can have tea anytime Orca.
...Oh, you mean Tee. Sorry
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Flood and landslide warnings issued as B.C. gets hit with heavy rain

VANCOUVER — Warnings of flooding, landslides and possible fatalities have been issued across British Columbia’s south coast as more than 300 millimetres of rain is predicted through Tuesday — almost twice the average monthly downpour for November. (more)
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting Grothar:


Orca, 300ml is nearly 1 foot, is it not? Could this be correct?


Yup... its gonna be wet.. gonna screwup my Tee time.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
I thought that insomniacs only had friends that were insomniacs.
heheheheh
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Quoting Floodman:
There's nothing wrong with insomniacs...some of my best friends are insomniacs!


Flood!!! How goes it?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Orca, I thought you all would have learned better from our Mid-Atlantic mess last week.
Now, send some of that mess to Pottery like we should have left Ida-mess in Florida.

BTW, Got a good Emergency Management Agency?

OMG, Geoff, did you see that? That was the most surprising football game ever. I thought the Pats had it won and I was bored. The Colts won by 1 point. Holy moly. Gosh, maybe I should always just watch the last quarter and I might like football.

P.S. YES, l foot. That's why I was so worried!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting Orcasystems:
There is something seriously wrong with this post, I am not suppose to be in any AOI's :(



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Orca, 300ml is nearly 1 foot, is it not? Could this be correct?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Colts and Saints remain undefeated!
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There's nothing wrong with insomniacs...some of my best friends are insomniacs!
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Quoting pottery:
Keep dry, Orca. And you better check that the overflows are clear, in the Koi ponds!


Done.. and the gutters also
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Keep dry, Orca. And you better check that the overflows are clear, in the Koi ponds!
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LOL Grothar. My wife was in Fla. in august. Said she was going to drop dead from the heat there. She had a great time tho'.

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Could very well happen, WPB. There is a large portion of cloud east of here, that might make it. But this year, that shear has blown most of those clouds away.
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There is something seriously wrong with this post, I am not suppose to be in any AOI's :(



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Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
Quoting pottery:
All is good here.
The weather is hot, with not nearly enough rain for this time of year. Gardens are drying up already. Strange. Not looking forward to the coming dry season at all. (Dec-May)


Same here in Ft. Lauderdale, I swear I saw a gecko carrying a little bottle of water. We had a very dry summer as well and hotter than I can ever remember.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Quoting pottery:
All is good here.
The weather is hot, with not nearly enough rain for this time of year. Gardens are drying up already. Strange. Not looking forward to the coming dry season at all. (Dec-May)


So sorry pottery. Maybe this strange weather pattern we are in will bring you some rain. Hoping for you!
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All is good here.
The weather is hot, with not nearly enough rain for this time of year. Gardens are drying up already. Strange. Not looking forward to the coming dry season at all. (Dec-May)
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839. Exactly. I wasn't intending it to be a travel ad for my beloved State. I'm a night-owl by nature...going back to 7 a.m. mandatory morning meetings is going to be a bear.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting pottery:
Ah! A meeting of Insomniacs.


That's why we call nana "Awake"!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Quoting pottery:
Ah! A meeting of Insomniacs.

Pottery! What's going on... life and/or weather. It was lovely here today, warm, and I don't want it to end after a dismal week.

Besides, Orca would love to hear a different voice. He's getting the dismal stuff now!

And are Ida remnants really going to get Grothar and Florida again?
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Nice to see you again Pottery...It's not very often I can stay up late on a Sunday night...but I enjoy the blog...and talking the tropics...and watching football...just a way to let off steam and have a good time.
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Quoting Orcasystems:
You three are really starting to worry me.

What, are you saying I need to get a life?

You'd be correct, except I have one...I'm just procrastinating because I don't want to attend to it just yet. Like, we have a health savings account for the first time, but I have no idea how it works.

Oh, and I have to pull out the coats and winter clothing...for the weather.
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting Orcasystems:
You three are really starting to worry me.


Hey Orca, I think it is PTD. Post tropics depression. Withdrawal from all the anxiety of the season. I've had very little time for diversion these past few months and this blog has been a great release of tension. The only blog I have ever been on. The field in which I am involved does not allow for much levity. The people on the blog, for the most part, have not only been informative, but humorous and witty; traits I find most admirable. It is bloggers like you who keep us informed on the technical side and we do the fill-ins. I think it is a good balance. Hope no one is offended. We try and stay on topic when there is something really important.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Ah! A meeting of Insomniacs.
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Just having fun Orca. Slow night on the blog.
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Hey, I just bought some stuff in an auction from a guy named Bernie. What a coincidence!
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You three are really starting to worry me.
Member Since: October 1, 2007 Posts: 81 Comments: 26511
I'm not as fast keeping up with posts as you two! Also I'm sort of trying to watch Pats-Colts game in order to keep up w/TampaSpin & T-Dude...but I've just never "gotten" football & many good dudes have tried.
Ohhhhh, Geoff and Grothar, that would have been a total hoot if we had all been at university together! Dang, the Maryland campus is so darn big I wore out boots and swore from one end to the other.
You guys are the best!
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Grothar, I would like the contact information for your financial advisor, please.

His name was Bernie.. something. Don't know where he can be contacted at the moment.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
I guess we are a cult of three tonight. Probally a lot of lurkers thinking, what the heck are they talking about!
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Quoting AwakeInMaryland:
Grothar, I would like the contact information for your financial advisor, please.

I guess the Lexus doesn't need All Wheel Drive for the weather in Florida...unless your better half decides to take an extended visit to Mama in Norway (she knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes)!



Let her ski, like the rest of them!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Grothar, I would like the contact information for your financial advisor, please.

I guess the Lexus doesn't need All Wheel Drive for the weather in Florida...unless your better half decides to take an extended visit to Mama in Norway (she knows when you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes)!

Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
You two are great! Glad I got to meet you this season.


Same sentiment here, Geoff. Awake, where were you when I was in college? We could have had a lot of laughs walking in the snow from building to building.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
You two are great! Glad I got to meet you this season.
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It really is going to be fun watching her wrap the new Lexus this year. Oh, it will have a weatherband radio in it, for severe weather alerts.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26816
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I don't know. What do you want? :)

ROFL! Same as everyone else. My mutual fund retirement savings back in less than 5 years (in other words, a Christmas miracle).

Oh, and weather-wise...I already have waterproof boots, soooooo, hm, winter in Virginia...will I need those red long johns this year?

P.S. Mr. & Mrs. Flood and NRAAmy didn't get banned, did they? Are they taking a holiday?
xcool is prob. lurking, waiting to pounce (hi lurkers).
Member Since: August 19, 2008 Posts: 32 Comments: 1918

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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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