Storm surge barriers: the New England experience

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

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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

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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.
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Quoting SPLbeater:


Christianity isnt a religion.


"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?
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Quoting SPLbeater:


Christianity isnt a religion. its a relationship with Jesus Christ. now im done with this subject because i want to talk cyclones. TA13 mail me your bad attitude comments, dont need them here


Okay...how old is planet earth? This is weather related.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11394
Quoting KoritheMan:
On topic, here is what I've done in the "Meteorological Statistics" section for my report on Tropical Storm Lee:


b. Meteorological Statistics

Lee's peak intensity is difficult to assess, due to a sharp dichotomy within the available data. Near the time of peak intensity, flight-level winds from a reconnaissance aircraft occasionally supported surface winds of 50 kt, which was the intensity operationally assigned to Lee by the National Hurricane Center. In addition, an oil rig located south of Grand Isle reported sustained winds at the threshold of 50 kt at an elevation of 200 feet near 1200 UTC September 3. However, the standard methodology by which to adequately measure surface winds is at a height of 33 feet, so it is plausible that these winds were not quite being experienced at the surface. In addition, although the satellite and radar presentation of the tropical cyclone was improving during this time, the almost immediate degradation in appearance, along with surface observations from central and southeastern Louisiana, support lowering the wind to 45 kt. Even then, it is likely that these winds were confined to immediate coastal areas away from official observing sites, as well as in areas over water to the east of the center. Nevertheless, reconnaissance aircraft reported fairly strong winds at 850 mb with Lee during this time, so it is possible that brief wind gusts in excess of at least 50 kt occurred in areas of deeper convection in associated rainbands. However, convection was apparently never sustained or vigorous enough to successfully translate these winds aloft to the surface for any meaningful amount of time, if at all.

And yes, I realize I'm way behind the scheduled December 1 deadline, but you try and do it while working the morning shift when you aren't a morning person. :/

November 30 deadline*
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32505
On topic, here is what I've done in the "Meteorological Statistics" section for my report on Tropical Storm Lee:


b. Meteorological Statistics

Lee's peak intensity is difficult to assess, due to a sharp dichotomy within the available data. Near the time of peak intensity, flight-level winds from a reconnaissance aircraft occasionally supported surface winds of 50 kt, which was the intensity operationally assigned to Lee by the National Hurricane Center. In addition, an oil rig located south of Grand Isle reported sustained winds at the threshold of 50 kt at an elevation of 200 feet near 1200 UTC September 3. However, the standard methodology by which to adequately measure surface winds is at a height of 33 feet, so it is plausible that these winds were not quite being experienced at the surface. In addition, although the satellite and radar presentation of the tropical cyclone was improving during this time, the almost immediate degradation in appearance, along with surface observations from central and southeastern Louisiana, support lowering the wind to 45 kt. Even then, it is likely that these winds were confined to immediate coastal areas away from official observing sites, as well as in areas over water to the east of the center. Nevertheless, reconnaissance aircraft reported fairly strong winds at 850 mb with Lee during this time, so it is possible that brief wind gusts in excess of at least 50 kt occurred in areas of deeper convection in associated rainbands. However, convection was apparently never sustained or vigorous enough to successfully translate these winds aloft to the surface for any meaningful amount of time, if at all.

And yes, I realize I'm way behind the scheduled December 1 deadline, but you try and do it while working the morning shift when you aren't a morning person. :/
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I see some N/C Tennessee getting a mix, probably gon change over during nightfall
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4488
So hows the snow for the Southern US looking right now? NWS add Rain/Snow to the forecast! I hope we get a dusting.
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And yes, seriously. Stop it with the religious bull****, ffs. Nobody cares about your half-assed theological ramblings, probably even those who believe the same things you do. Now I know you're going to take this as "you're just frustrated because you know I'm right, you god-rebelling atheist you", but rest assured I have more firmness in my convictions than that.

Just remember what Saint Francis of Assissi once said:

"Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words."

Now buzz off.
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Quoting SPLbeater:


God is pre-existent. God has been here for ever, ever and ever. there is NO beginneing to God, nobody nothing created him. he is eternal, and cannot correct himself because he has nothing to correct


lolololol
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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. :-)
Yo I just saw this, was not on the screen when posting.
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Ok stop with religious stuff.I came here to see if anybody posted anything interesting about the weather, or the inner workings of the earth. Sadly this is not true. There is nothing more dangerous in this world than religion.
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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. :-)
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32505
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Religion on WU?


Eject Goose.. Eject!


Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4754
Quoting CybrTeddy:
Religion on WU?


Eject Goose.. Eject!


Now back on topic. A lovely view of the West Pacific.



That swirl to the ENE of the Philippines would be a TS if it were in the Atlantic near Bermuda.....
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Religion on WU?


Eject Goose.. Eject!
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Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11394
Remember...there are books of the Bible the Vatican will not release.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11394
Quoting tropicfreak:


AMEN



The Bible isn't just a bunch of stories and crap VABeach, it contains the Ultimate Truth! The Bible is nothing but the truth! The ONE AND ONLY perfect God wrote this and if you are going to disrespect it then you are well on your way to burning in hell forever.


Take this off of here please. We're tired of seeing religious BS on here.
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MEX MOS CONDITIONAL PROB OF FREEZING PRECIP (%)

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Weather thru Theology..?

Lemme get a Fresca furst.

"Spppsssst"

,,ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Quoting tropicfreak:


AMEN



The Bible isn't just a bunch of stories and crap VABeach, it contains the Ultimate Truth! The Bible is nothing but the truth! The ONE AND ONLY perfect God wrote this and if you are going to disrespect it then you are well on your way to burning in hell forever.


You say that "God" created everything. But tell me: Who/What created "God"?
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Area forecast discussion
National Weather Service New Orleans la
718 PM CST sun Nov 27 2011


Short term...

strong northerly flow made its way into the County Warning Area today. Winds already picking up to the 18 to 20 knot range in the coastal
waters.

Latest peak at the radar shows the area of dz to -ra
moving east... however forecast will continue the chance for rain in wrap around area of the slow moving upper low moving across the region tonight through Monday.
Clouds associated with the low will be slow to move out with Monday night seeing clearing.
With that in mind... expect the coldest mins with this system to be on Tuesday morning.

H1000 to h500 thickness values bring the 540dm line to
the coast Monday 12z per the GFS and 555dm Tuesday 12z.

Mins less likely to be influenced by cloud cover by Tuesday. Latest MOS guidance agrees with this trend thus forecast lows dropped a few degrees from last
package.

Keg

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
More cold and deep layered at that to wedge into the GOM

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
..floor furnace pilot out.

Electric Heaters in Medium Mode..
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 426 Comments: 129089
Quoting SPLbeater:
Lots of convection over the Indian ocean in that satellite picture, right inline with the MJO phase analysis

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Quoting weatherh98:


freezingout here in louisiana man its cold and SOme models are predicting snow hhaha how happy would i be


I'm so jealous of you guys down there, I'm in Central VA and I should be getting my first snow before you! JK, hope you enjoy it!
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


stop being so ignorant


People are entitled to their own beliefs, I'm a christian and I believe that, you are going to yell at me?
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Quoting Grothar:



LOL, you said denticles.


Yes but, the sharks are not laughing. ... One of the few things I remember from my Oceanography class.

"Dermal denticles
Main article: Dermal denticle

Unlike bony fish, sharks have a complex dermal corset made of flexible collagenous fibers and arranged as a helical network surrounding their body. This works as an outer skeleton, providing attachment for their swimming muscles and thus saving energy.[14] In the past, sharkskin has been used as sandpaper. Their dermal teeth give them hydrodynamic advantages as they reduce turbulence when swimming."


Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4754
I have bronchitis and feel like crud... Also does anyone think I will have snow here in staten island NY for christmas also I'm watching the walking dead what a awesome show
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Quoting weatherh98:


freezingout here in louisiana man its cold and SOme models are predicting snow hhaha how happy would i be


Nice. Snow this early for the Bayou is a surprise.
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Quoting VAbeachhurricanes:


Just a heads up, you made me wipe off my computer screen


ROFL
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Quoting caneswatch:


Another heads up, Reed will be writing an essay for us on how the NHC messed it up on this storm.

ahaha.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32505
Quoting Some1Has2BtheRookie:


I would offer in to evidence as Exhibit "A", Grothar. However he has been sworn into silence concerning this. However, should you look close enough on the more worn mountains, you may still find evidence of his mountain boots there. His cleats were the denticles from shark skin.



LOL, you said denticles.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


And Maureen O'Hara is still with us at age 91.


So, you are the ones that have been hiding her.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814
Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I don't think I have enough reward points on my credit card.


The easy solution is to buy us all a Porche. That should get you enough reward points. ;-)
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4754
Quoting caneswatch:


Another heads up, Reed will be writing an essay for us on how the NHC messed it up on this storm.


Just a heads up, you made me wipe off my computer screen
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Quoting SPLbeater:


can you prove that a few billion years past and did that? NO.


I would offer in to evidence as Exhibit "A", Grothar. However he has been sworn into silence concerning this. However, should you look close enough on the more worn mountains, you may still find evidence of his mountain boots there. His cleats were the denticles from shark skin.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4754
Quoting caneswatch:


Rain in advance of that cold front. Upper 40s to low 50s expected Tuesday night, the coldest front of the season. How about yours?


freezingout here in louisiana man its cold and SOme models are predicting snow hhaha how happy would i be
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6539
Quoting Patrap:
Geaux Sneaux..!



Could you post the one for 48 hours?. I don't have Accuweather Pro, but on Twisterdata it looks impressive. I'd like to see it on that display.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Just a heads up, the National Hurricane Center will be releasing a press release on the Unnamed Tropical System tomorrow.


Another heads up, Reed will be writing an essay for us on how the NHC messed it up on this storm.
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Quoting Grothar:


The little girl was Natalie Wood.


And Maureen O'Hara is still with us at age 91.
Member Since: September 10, 2007 Posts: 0 Comments: 11394
Just a heads up, the National Hurricane Center will be releasing a press release on the Unnamed Tropical System tomorrow.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 113 Comments: 32505
Quoting Grothar:


The little girl was Natalie Wood.


Ironic that her murder case was just reopened. I hope they find out who did it and give her justice soon.
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Quoting weatherh98:
C-A-N-E-S-W-A-T-C-H-W-H-A-T-I-S-R-O-L-L-IN-W-I-T- H- Y-O-U-R-W-X


Rain in advance of that cold front. Upper 40s to low 50s expected Tuesday night, the coldest front of the season. How about yours?
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:
Good Thanksgiving Canes...Watching Miracle On 34th Street on DVR...If you haven't seen it, you really should.


The little girl was Natalie Wood.
Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 71 Comments: 26814

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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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