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 GeoffreyWPB: Very nice P451... a lot of work went into that. Congrats!

I agree. Thanks for the retrospective on a storm that had just about everything.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Yes to the cold fronts! Being a native-born Floridian, I love it when it gets cold. If I remember correctly from previous posts, it could be a cooler than normal winter season for Florida.


I don't really like it. It causes the air to be too dry, which enhances the chance of getting the flu or common cold...


The CMC has been hinting that Ex-IDA may convert into a possible tropical cyclone. Due to fact that it is the only model showing this,it should not be taken seriously.
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Hi Grothar....hope you had a great day! Weather great today. Just right.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10975
Very nice P451... a lot of work went into that. Congrats!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10975
Quoting LLJF:
Time for another global warming/cooling blog or two Dr.
The Tropical Atlantic season is finished!

and how are you good old bud sir
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
Well, its looks like the blog has come to life a little and I mean a little. How is everyone?
Oh, I forgot. Anything new in the tropics?
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
I hope its over...and the last thing we need is an "entity".


New word of the Day :)
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560. BDAwx
has there ever been two us landfalls from separate systems in november before?
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559. beell
Quoting aquak9:
good evening ya'll.

just a quick review back...cmc and gfs...are they hinting at another low'easter coming offa the tail end of a front later this week?

affecting the same general area as Nor'Ida?

is that what ya'll are talkin' about?


Not so much at the tail end of a front-more like at the tail end of a deep trough tied to a low in the far northern ATL. Pick your steering. Ridge weakness or Ridging?. Would still have to get something to persist at the surface untill then. ADDED: The something would be a weakening surface expression of the closed-off upper low associated with the last Nor'easter. Which we now affectionately refer to as "the remains of Ida".

18Z MSLP GFS at 90 hrs


12Z MSLP CMC at 96 hrs


12Z MSLP NOGAPS at 96 hrrs
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Yes to the cold fronts! Being a native-born Floridian, I love it when it gets cold. If I remember correctly from previous posts, it could be a cooler than normal winter season for Florida.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10975
The question that I have, what is the forecast for Steering Currents, Sea Surface Temps or SST's for those of us not with Met terms, and Low vs High pressure systems.
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This entire season has been strange, so another weird acting system would not be a big thing for any of us.
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a what what what, would you mind telling me what you mean Orca. I need no more problems with the weather, and would love to have some more cold fronts with NO TROPICAL WEATHER!!!! Sorry for the Caps.
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Wow...your'e quick on the draw Orca!
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10975
10-day outlook seems pretty seasonable for West Palm Beach:

Nov 14 Tonight
Mostly clear. Low 62F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.
Nov 15 Tomorrow
Plentiful sunshine. High around 80F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph.
Nov 15 Tomorrow night
A mostly clear sky. Low 64F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
Nov 16 Monday
Partly cloudy. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Nov 17 Tuesday
Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.
Nov 18 Wednesday
Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Nov 19 Thursday
Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 70s.
Nov 20 Friday
Plenty of sun. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Nov 21 Saturday
Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Nov 22 Sunday
Scattered thunderstorms possible. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Nov 23 Monday
Times of sun and clouds. Highs in the low 80s and lows in the upper 60s.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10975
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
What's the latest outlook for ex-Ida's remnant swirl? Some were saying it would head south-east and possibly reform into some type of entity?


Entity?? like in possessed?



Seismic Monitor

AOI

AOI

Humor in Comments
Tropical Cyclones: Physics, Energetics and Mechanics, Posted by: Weather456, 11:24 AM GMT on October 25, 2009
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What's the latest outlook for ex-Ida's remnant swirl? Some were saying it would head south-east and possibly reform into some type of entity?
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 10975
good evening ya'll.

just a quick review back...cmc and gfs...are they hinting at another low'easter coming offa the tail end of a front later this week?

affecting the same general area as Nor'Ida?

is that what ya'll are talkin' about?
Member Since: August 13, 2005 Posts: 163 Comments: 25732
548. BDAwx
its quite interesting because there is only one band and it's really thin - about 2-3 miles west to east but it extends 200miles north and south and its parked over 2 parishes but with some wobbles giving some rain to the neighboring two parishes... but there are other showers around in the marine area...
rainfall rates in this band are 2-3 inches an hour so...

Bermuda Radar

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Quoting BDAwx:


Nope no mountains, just really steep hills, its been wet recently and the drainage system isn't that great to begin with, and theres a canal thats really just a fancy drainage ditch below sealevel, that floods in heavy rains, the whole length of it, especially at high tide. It runs through a main route into Hamilton.(the capitol)
Hope everything is okay. For such a "slow" hurricane season it sure has been a mess for some people.
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546. BDAwx
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Hope it doesn't get too bad. Do you have mountains there ?


Nope no mountains, just really steep hills, its been wet recently and the drainage system isn't that great to begin with, and theres a canal thats really just a fancy drainage ditch below sealevel, that floods in heavy rains, the whole length of it, especially at high tide. It runs through a main route into Hamilton.(the capitol)
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Hmmmmmm
CMC is saying it might not be over yet.
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6.1-magnitude quake rattles northern Argentina
PRESSTV
Sat, 14 Nov 2009 21:33:10 GMT

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake has struck northern Argentina near its borders with Chile and Bolivia.

There were no immediate reports of any casualties or damage from the quake that rattled part of the Andes mountainous region at 4:44 p.m. local time (1944 GMT), some 190 kilometers (120 miles) northwest of San Salvador de Jujuy and 240 km (150 miles) southwest of Tarija, Bolivia at a depth of 141 km (88 miles), the US Geological Survey said in a preliminary report.

On Friday, two quakes hit the same region, one a 6.5-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter near the Chile-Peru border, and another measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale that struck several hundred kilometers to the north of Argentina's Jujuy province.
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Quoting BDAwx:
Got some rain from outer bands of this storm in western Bermuda with some flooding this afternoon...
Hope it doesn't get too bad. Do you have mountains there ?
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542. BDAwx
Got some rain from outer bands of this storm in western Bermuda with some flooding this afternoon...
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Didn't realize 456 was back on; sorry, we've been digressing a LOT since you've not been here to keep us on track.

So glad you're a bit better. I just had a touch of a disgusting flu and was out of it for a couple-three days.

Take care and I'll go back to lurking because a lot of people will be glad you're back to discuss serious weather -- and there sure has been some. Decimated some of my favorite beaches :(
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Wow! So little posts!

When Ida dissipated, she really killed off the blog.
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Grothar, if you're still in here...& others on last night -- I admit I was lurking; couldn't remember the name of one of my favorite Chrismukkah movies so I didn't chime in. Besides, it too was darn sweet watching all the male bonding (hehe).

I have too many faves. These all involve snow or the environment in some fashion so I'm on topic, Admin. (hope).

-- A Christmas Story -- the one about the little boy who wanted the BB gun. Hilarious.

-- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer -- the animated one w/the Burl Ives songs. (I also have an OLD record with Songs of Israel by Burl Ives, hah, top that one, WUnderland.)

-- The Nutcracker Suite (the ballet, of course.)

-- AND, because it's funny as heck AND because I produced a program with the choreographer for the Amembassy Antananarivo,

-- The Hard Nut, music by Tchaikovsy, choreography Mark Morris

Link

Phew, all that so I could do a little PR for Mark Morris for free, and he'll never know!

Okay, now I'm on ignore for most of the bloggers, esp. the ones w/ testosterone...



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Quoting Weather456:


I realized that. I have to go back and look for information on where she made landfall.

I did see the news footages over the past week. She really turned out to be a dozy.
She caused some terrible problems. It's sad.
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First named storm of the Southern Hemisphere cyclone season

Moderate TC Anja

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Quoting Weather456:


I'm still a little shaken but not stirred. The blog looks so unfamiliar.

Hope you feel better soon.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Nothing much going on now that Ida has moved out.


I realized that. I have to go back and look for information on where she made landfall.

I did see the news footages over the past week. She really turned out to be a dozy.
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Good evening!!!
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Quoting Weather456:


I'm still a little shaken but not stirred. The blog looks so unfamiliar.
Nothing much going on now that Ida has moved out.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Good evening, how are you feeling ? Heard you were sick .


I'm still a little shaken but not stirred. The blog looks so unfamiliar.
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Quoting Weather456:
Good evening all
Good evening, how are you feeling ? Heard you were sick .
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Good evening all
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Next weekend GFS

not even funny...

I pray and hope that does NOT take place! I know you have hundreds of millions in damage from 3 days of 45-50MPH winds gusting to 65-75 MPH, 5 FT above normal tides and almost 11 inches of rain in 3 days.

I am originally from West Hempstead, Long Island, in S Central Nassau Co. I have seen my share of Nor'Easters growing up in the 60's and 70's. These 2 Nor'Easters you've experienced this year were remnants of either TS Ida or the ALMOST STS you experienced in 9-09.

Enough is enough already, and the winter storm season is yet to come for both the Eastern Seaboard and the West Coast.
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Quoting Grothar:


Sounds interesting. I may have to go sometime. Fantasy Fest in the Florida keys is a little over the top for me. I enjoy observing other cultures. Having lived in so many different places, one becomes accustomed to enjoy what others have to offer as entertainment.
It's very nice but after going a couple dozen years it gets tiring. I don't go anymore but my children and grandchildren go.
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Yes, that's it. They have a Pirates Landing and a float parade. After that is a street dance. Each day of the week is a different Heritage Day in each district with demonstrations of "yesteryear" and local food and dancing. It ends next Saturday with a final street dance.


Sounds interesting. I may have to go sometime. Fantasy Fest in the Florida keys is a little over the top for me. I enjoy observing other cultures. Having lived in so many different places, one becomes accustomed to enjoy what others have to offer as entertainment.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting Grothar:


Is that the one where they do like a fake invasion. Friends told me about. They said the food was incredible. Never ate so much in their lives. I like hot, spicy food myself.
Yes, that's it. They have a Pirates Landing and a float parade. After that is a street dance. Each day of the week is a different Heritage Day in each district with demonstrations of "yesteryear" and local food and dancing. It ends next Saturday with a final street dance.
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Quoting JLPR:


that one had very cool trailers
got to see it, now I only need to think when im going =P



yep it seems we like explosions and disasters in movies, not sure why XD


Studies have been done on that. Watching disasters releases endorphines and other chemicals in the body and stimulates them, then the body crashes from the high and becomes relaxed. Humans are very visual creatures.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Quoting stormwatcherCI:
Today is the first day of our annual festival "Pirates Week" so there's not many people around.


Is that the one where they do like a fake invasion. Friends told me about. They said the food was incredible. Never ate so much in their lives. I like hot, spicy food myself.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
523. JLPR
Quoting Grothar:
Anyone seen 2012 yet?


that one had very cool trailers
got to see it, now I only need to think when im going =P

Quoting Grothar:


Passed by the theater earlier. Lines all around. I think people enjoy disasters.


yep it seems we like explosions and disasters in movies, not sure why XD
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Quoting stormwatcherCI:
It seems like it. Not something I would like to contemplate.


It was a very pleasant blog last night. We had a lot of laughs and no one was banned. Probably the most enjoyable in a long time. We even got in some weather talk!!!
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25369
Today is the first day of our annual festival "Pirates Week" so there's not many people around.
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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.