Storm surge barriers: the New England experience

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:22 PM GMT on November 25, 2011

Share this Blog
30
+

Back in 1938, long before satellites, radar, the hurricane hunters, and the modern weather forecasting system, the great New England hurricane of 1938 roared northwards into Long Island, New York at 60 mph, pushing a storm surge more than 15 feet high to the coast. Hundreds of Americans died in this greatest Northeast U.S. hurricane on record, the strongest hurricane to hit the Northeast since the 1800s. A destructive storm surge of 13 feet (4 meters) barreled though Long Island Sound into Stamford, Connecticut, inundating the downtown region and causing heavy damage ($6 million in 1938 dollars.) Sixteen years later, a storm surge from Hurricane Carol of 1954 inundated the city again, causing $3.4 million in damage. In response to these twin storm surge disasters, work was begun in 1965 on a 17-foot high, $14 million (1965 dollars) hurricane barrier. Completed in 1969, the barrier across Stamford Harbor is high enough to protect the city from a storm surge of 14.8 feet above mean sea level. Had the barrier been in place during Hurricane Carol, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates damage to Stamford could have been reduced by 85%.


Figure 1. Bedford Street looking south towards Broad Street in Stamford, Connecticut, after the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. Image credit: stamfordhistory.org.


Figure 2. The storm surge from Category 2 Hurricane Carol in 1954 batters the Edgewood Yacht Club near Providence, Rhode Island. Image credit: NOAA Photo Library.

The Providence storm surge barrier
Stamford isn't the only New England city that suffered destructive storm surges from the 1938 and 1954 hurricanes. The 1938 hurricane brought a storm surge that covered the commercial district of Providence, Rhode Island with 8 feet (2.5 m) of water, causing $16.3 million in damage. On August 31, 1954, Hurricane Carol produced a storm surge of up to 14.4 feet (4.4 m) in Narragansett Bay, surpassing that of the New England Hurricane of 1938. The resulting storm surge flooded downtown Providence with 12 feet (3.7 m) of water. Some entire coastal communities were nearly destroyed, and damage was estimated at $25.1 million. In response to the devastation wrought by these storms, a $15 million hurricane barrier 25 feet (7.6 m) high was built across the 1000-foot (300 m) entrance to Providence Harbor between 1961 - 1966.


Figure 3. A ship passes through the Providence, Rhode Island storm surge barrier. Image credit: Douglas Hill, EngScD, P.E., Stony Brook University.

The New Bedford storm surge barrier
New Bedford, Massachusetts lies near the end of a narrow bay, and narrow bays and river estuaries can act as funnels that focus storm surges to extreme heights if the hurricane's direction of motion is aligned so that the surge propagates up the bottleneck. In fact, the shape of the coast near New Bedford makes it the most vulnerable portion of the U.S. coast for a hurricane storm surge. The highest theoretical storm surge produced by NOAA's SLOSH model for the U.S. is 38.5 feet above mean sea level, for a Category 4 hurricane hitting New Bedford. Destructive storm surges hit New Bedford during the 1938 hurricane and 1954's Hurricane Carol, the latter storm causing $8.3 million in flood damages. A hurricane barrier 23 feet (7 m) high and 4900 feet (1500 m) long across New Bedford Harbor was completed in 1966 at a cost of $19 million (1966 dollars.) The barrier separates the New Bedford Harbor from Buzzard's Bay, and successfully kept out the 8 foot (2.5 m) storm surge from Hurricane Bob in 1991, and a 6.5 foot (2 m) surge from the January 1997 Nor'easter.


Figure 4.The 4,900 foot-long New Bedford, Massachusetts storm surge barrier as seen using Google Earth. The city of New Bedford lies to the north (top) of this image.


Figure 5.The four regions of the U.S. theoretically prone to storm surges in excess of 33 feet at the coast. These Maximum of the Maximum Envelope Of Waters (MOM) SLOSH model plots are for a maximum strength hurricane hitting at high tide. A theoretical peak storm surge of 33 - 34 feet (pink colors) is predicted by the SLOSH model for New York City near the JFK Airport (upper left), for the Big Bend region of the Florida Gulf Coast (lower right), and for the Intracoastal Waterway north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (lower left). The highest theoretical surge occurs at New Bedford, Massachusetts (upper right): 38.5 feet for a Category 4 hurricane.

More storm surge barriers needed
Storm surge barriers in Stamford, New Bedford, and Providence have already proved their worth and prevented damages more than the cost of their construction. For example, the Stamford barrier kept out the storm surge from the December 1992 Nor'easter, which neighboring New York City suffered storm surge flooding of it subway system and roads that caused hundreds of millions in damage. Similar barriers in the Netherlands and England's Thames River have also proved their worth, and multi-billion dollar storm surge barriers are nearing completion in St. Petersburg, Russia and the Venice Lagoon in Italy. Many more such barriers will be needed world-wide in the coming decades, because of sea level rise.
Sea level rose an average of 7 inches (18 cm) during the 20th century. The 2007 report of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted global sea level rise of 0.6 - 1.9 feet (18 - 59 cm) by 2100--excluding the contribution from melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Several studies published since that report predict much higher levels of sea level increase will occur if one includes the melting from Greenland and Antarctica, For example, a 2008 paper published by Pfeffer et al. in Science concluded that the "most likely" range of sea level rise by 2100 is 2.6 - 6.6 feet (80 - 200 cm.) If these higher sea level rise estimates prove correct, storm surge damage could easily double of triple, particularly if climate change makes the strongest storms stronger. A Report to Congress by FEMA (1991) estimated that existing development on the U.S. coast would experience a 36 - 58% increase in annual damages for a 1-foot rise in sea level, and a 102 - 200% increase for a 3-foot rise. Much of this additional damage would result from storm surges riding on top of heightened sea levels. As I'll report on in future blog posts in this series, even if the sea level does not rise this century, there are three locations along the U.S. coast that should immediately begin planning to install hurricane storm surge barriers: New York City, Galveston/Houston, and Tampa Bay.

Jeff Masters

Reader Comments

Comments will take a few seconds to appear.

Post Your Comments

Please sign in to post comments.

or Join

Not only will you be able to leave comments on this blog, but you'll also have the ability to upload and share your photos in our Wunder Photos section.

Display: 0, 50, 100, 200 Sort: Newest First - Order Posted

Viewing: 574 - 524

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13Blog Index

im hungry
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Comin together...
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting Skyepony:
It just blew up..


nice, lol.
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
571. Skyepony (Mod)
Quoting SPLbeater:
As of 050000UTC 11/28/2011

Raw T# 4.0
Adj T# 3.4
Final T# 3.1


In the half hour since it dropped nearly a mb.

2011NOV28 053000 3.2 988.2/ +0.0 / 49.0 3.2 3.3 4.0 0.7T/6hr OFF OFF -84.46 -87.02 UNIFRM N/A 14.84 -68.15 FCST
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
what i cant figure out, is why the JTWC doesnt seem to be factoring in the T#'s? 35kts, and 47kts arent very close:)
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
569. Skyepony (Mod)
It just blew up..
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
As of 050000UTC 11/28/2011

Raw T# 4.0
Adj T# 3.4
Final T# 3.1
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
567. Skyepony (Mod)
05A
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Dvorak Intensity says 50< mph winds with 05A

CI#/ Pressure/ Vmax
3.1/ 996.9mb/ 47.0kt
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
565. Skyepony (Mod)
Hades~ TRMM hasn't had a pass of 05A in 2 days. Should get a pass soon.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
564. Skyepony (Mod)
Trolling the weather wire..

Freeze warning SE Texas..

Chance of flooding this week in Chatanooga/N GA area..

Another tragic drought loss in TX...Christmas Trees. 2/3rds of them died..


Wacky weather day in Alberta

Edmonton will see 20-degree swings this week, meteorologist says

In downtown Calgary, winds were clocked at 149 kilometres per hour. The high winds wreaked havoc throughout the city, downing power lines, breaking windows, and even ripping off three light-rail crossing arms, causing transit delays. Police urged residents to stay indoors as flying debris became a hazard on roads and walkways.

Near Hinton, RCMP said poor weather had created hazardous driving conditions after a passenger bus carrying a midget AA hockey team from Edmonton rolled shortly before 1:30 p.m. Sunday.



2 week UN climate summit starts tomorrow in S Africa.

Zimbabwe had a thin harvest leaving ~1 million hungry.

Australia hailed they drought proofed their food bowl, their environmentalists say plan isn't sustainable.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
You hurry on back safely, Grothar :)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
I'll be leaving tomorrow and probably won't be on for a while. Remember, 'tis the season to be jolly. Play nice while I am gone.


Cheers Grothar...

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
561. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
India Meteorological Department
Additional Information for Advisory #10
======================================

According to satellite imagery, the Dvorak intensity is T2.0. The convection has increased during past 12 hours. The lowest cloud top temperature is about -85C. Associated broken intense to very intense convection is seen over area between 13.0N to 19.0N and 64.0E to 71.0E.

3 minute sustained winds near the center is 30 knots with gusts of 40 knots. The central pressure of the system is 1000 hPa. The state of the sea is very rough around the center.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
TAWX, if you're still around...

*continued from previous page*

Lee's large wind field produced tropical storm force winds across a large section of the northern Gulf Coast. Sustained winds of 25 kt, with a gust to 35 kt, were reported in Baton Rouge near 1000 UTC local time on September 3. New Orleans Lakefront airport reported an almost continuous flurry of tropical storm force wind gusts beginning from September 2 through September 5, and sustained winds briefly achieved 35 kt, accompanied by gusts to near 50 kt, at 1026 UTC September 3. A wind gust to 40 kt was recorded in Biloxi, Mississippi at 1042 UTC local time September 5, though this was observation has not been corroborated by an official National Weather Service observing station. Mobile, Alabama reported a peak wind gust of 45 kt just after 0600 UTC September 5. The highest wind reports from an official reporting station occurred in Pensacola, Florida on September 5 just prior to 1600 UTC, when a wind gust to 60 kt was reported, accompanied by sustained winds of 40 kt. While Lee was still producing tropical storm force winds during this time, cold air advection associated with an unseasonably strong cold front moving through the central United States had successfully caused Lee to become post-tropical during that time. It is likely that the lingering convection in the eastern quadrant on September 5 was due to warm southerly flow in advance of the front keeping that portion of the circulation healthy, or at least more tropical.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
I'll be leaving tomorrow and probably won't be on for a while. Remember, 'tis the season to be jolly. Play nice while I am gone.


We will miss you Gro!
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Quoting Grothar:


Ok, Ebenezer, you take care, too!


;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


Meh, there's no joy to be had in Christmas anyway. Last minute shopping, frantic preparation of dinner/dessert, and the inevitable family drama.


Ok, Ebenezer, you take care, too!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
I'll be leaving tomorrow and probably won't be on for a while. Remember, 'tis the season to be jolly. Play nice while I am gone.


I guess you did not get the memo, Grothar. You are suppose to go the NE coast in summer and the SE coast in winter. Hawaii is open year round.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
554. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
India Meteorological Department
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #10
DEEP DEPRESSION ARB04-2011
5:30 AM IST November 28 2011
=================================

SUBJECT: Deep Depression O ver East Central Arabian Sea

At 0:00 AM UTC, The depression over east central Arabian Sea continued to move northwestwards and intensified into a deep depression. Deep Depression ARB04-2011 lays centered near 13.5N 70.0E, or 400 Km northwest of Amini Divi (Lakshadweep Island), 700 km southwest of Mumbai and 550 km west of Manglore (Karnataka).

The system is likely to intensify into a cyclonic storm and move northwestwards during next 24 hrs. and then it is likely to move west-northwestwards towards Oman coast.

Forecast and Intensity (Estimated)
=======================

6 HRS: 14.5N 69.0E - 30-35 knots (Deep Depression)
12 HRS: 15.0N 68.0E - 30-40 knots (Cyclonic Storm)
36 HRS: 16.0N 65.5E - 30-40 knots (Cyclonic Storm)
60 HRS: 17.0N 63.0E - 25-30 knots (Depression)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
I'll be leaving tomorrow and probably won't be on for a while. Remember, 'tis the season to be jolly. Play nice while I am gone.


Meh, there's no joy to be had in Christmas anyway. Last minute shopping, frantic preparation of dinner/dessert, and the inevitable family drama.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I'll be leaving tomorrow and probably won't be on for a while. Remember, 'tis the season to be jolly. Play nice while I am gone.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting JNCali:
Watching the temp slide down toward 37.. maybe snow tonight.. tomorrow night almost certain.. Middle TN is full of surprises!


i trade you an inch of rainwater inside a lil cup for a snowball..
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Watching the temp slide down toward 37.. maybe snow tonight.. tomorrow night almost certain.. Middle TN is full of surprises!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
And the SW Pacific remains quiet..for now, lol
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting Grothar:
Street painters misspell school street sign -- in Lauderhill school zone
A sign painted in the road on NW 50th Street reads "scohol." The… (Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel)October 28, 2011|By Danielle Alvarez and Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun SentinelLAUDERHILL — This could spell trouble for a group of pavement painters.

Just a block away from an elementary school, subcontractors goofed and stenciled the pavement with the letters “scohol.” Yep, you read that right: “scohol” instead of “school.”

The crew, working near the corner of 50th Street and Pine Island Road, seemingly failed to spell check its work on nearby signs for Banyan Elementary School.




Could it be that since schools are having trouble getting funding that they have reorganized under a new name?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
I think 05A is more then 35kts....i would say 40kt atleast, looking at this
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting Grothar:
Street painters misspell school street sign -- in Lauderhill school zone
A sign painted in the road on NW 50th Street reads "scohol." The… (Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel)October 28, 2011|By Danielle Alvarez and Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun SentinelLAUDERHILL — This could spell trouble for a group of pavement painters.

Just a block away from an elementary school, subcontractors goofed and stenciled the pavement with the letters “scohol.” Yep, you read that right: “scohol” instead of “school.”

The crew, working near the corner of 50th Street and Pine Island Road, seemingly failed to spell check its work on nearby signs for Banyan Elementary School.




Sigh, only here in South Florida haha
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Quoting Grothar:


I'm under a gag order.


Not according to Mrs. Grothar.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:
Street painters misspell school street sign -- in Lauderhill school zone
A sign painted in the road on NW 50th Street reads "scohol." The… (Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel)October 28, 2011|By Danielle Alvarez and Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun SentinelLAUDERHILL — This could spell trouble for a group of pavement painters.

Just a block away from an elementary school, subcontractors goofed and stenciled the pavement with the letters “scohol.” Yep, you read that right: “scohol” instead of “school.”

The crew, working near the corner of 50th Street and Pine Island Road, seemingly failed to spell check its work on nearby signs for Banyan Elementary School.




LOL. smart workers xD
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488

Is this the microwave image? i think this is what i been searching for for months
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting Grothar:
Street painters misspell school street sign -- in Lauderhill school zone
A sign painted in the road on NW 50th Street reads "scohol." The… (Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel)October 28, 2011|By Danielle Alvarez and Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun SentinelLAUDERHILL — This could spell trouble for a group of pavement painters.

Just a block away from an elementary school, subcontractors goofed and stenciled the pavement with the letters “scohol.” Yep, you read that right: “scohol” instead of “school.”

The crew, working near the corner of 50th Street and Pine Island Road, seemingly failed to spell check its work on nearby signs for Banyan Elementary School.




Hehehe
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:



I still don't understand why we just can't ask Grothar...


I'm under a gag order.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


You shouldn't do anybody else's school work for them. Let Lee do it himself.


Yeah but see, I have something in common with Lee. He made landfall here, after all. ;)
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
and all i wanted was snow... sigh... dang it
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Street painters misspell school street sign -- in Lauderhill school zone
A sign painted in the road on NW 50th Street reads "scohol." The… (Amy Beth Bennett, Sun Sentinel)October 28, 2011|By Danielle Alvarez and Ihosvani Rodriguez, Sun SentinelLAUDERHILL — This could spell trouble for a group of pavement painters.

Just a block away from an elementary school, subcontractors goofed and stenciled the pavement with the letters “scohol.” Yep, you read that right: “scohol” instead of “school.”

The crew, working near the corner of 50th Street and Pine Island Road, seemingly failed to spell check its work on nearby signs for Banyan Elementary School.


Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Grothar:


You shouldn't do anybody else's school work for them. Let Lee do it himself.


ZING!
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


Okay...how old is planet earth? This is weather related.



I still don't understand why we just can't ask Grothar...
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


Well how about this? Since I'm doing Lee's report as we speak, I'll post the data as it comes in.


You shouldn't do anybody else's school work for them. Let Lee do it himself.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I am on your side too canes...Just trying to prove a point. Don't think bad of me.


I'm not :)
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

Really? You were supposed to be terrified and everybody was supposed to go back to the weather...

LOL.


Well how about this? Since I'm doing Lee's report as we speak, I'll post the data as it comes in.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting caneswatch:


Thank you my good friend.


I am on your side too canes...Just trying to prove a point. Don't think bad of me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
28 NOV 2011 023000UTC

CI#/ Pressure/ Vmax
2.8/ 1000.8mb/ 41.0kt

Raw T# 2.8
Adj T# 2.8
Final T# 2.8

Center Temp: -65.1C
Cloud Region Temp: -67.3C

Scene Type: UNIFORM CDO CLOUD REGION

how is it the raw, adj, and final T#'s can be excactly the same?
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

November 30 deadline*


No, December 1. That's when the NHC releases theirs.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting KoritheMan:


"But... if I admit to it being a religion, my entire life will have been a lie!"

Seriously, why the **** are so many Christians afraid to admit this? Is your faith so weak that admittance of such somehow undermines the very foundation of your beliefs?

*Moves mouse to |!| button*.....I will press it, even on you.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32692
Forget this, u guys just cant help yourselves. Tropical when this is over PM me.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
And religion becomes a subject of the blog again..

"When using Dr. Masters' blog, please refrain from posting material not relevant to the discussion of tropical weather, or the topic of the blog entry itself. Please do not engage in personal attacks or bickering. Material not conforming to these standards should be flagged with the button and ignored."

Anybody who speaks a word about religion is getting reported to admin. I hope you get banned. :-)


Thank you my good friend.
Member Since: October 8, 2008 Posts: 14 Comments: 4553

Viewing: 574 - 524

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13Blog Index

Top of Page

About

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

Local Weather

Overcast
54 °F
Overcast