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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I live on the oldest landmass in the world (or close). The mountains here were at one time as tall as the Himalayas, but now they are just rolling hills. Kinda amazing what a few billion years of erosion does. I must say though, the terrain here is absolutely beautiful because of the erosion.
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Here come da cool front...



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Outcrop of Upper Ordovician limestone and minor shale in central Tennessee. That stuff is 500 million years old and loaded with cool fossils. This is right by my house..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19537
Earlier this weekend someone mentioned that the NHC might do a press release on the unnamed storm on Monday. Was that just random speculation, or does it hold weight?
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418. xcool
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Quoting Grothar:


Who do you think wore it down?? :)
Must have been a lot of work....A little wet too...
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
"How many times have we told you, Africa? It's not Cape Verde Season anymore!"




this be come its not Cape Verde Season any more dos not mean we can still get a Tropical wave from time too time how evere it is rare this late in the season
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Quoting interstatelover7165:
"How many times have we told you, Africa? It's not Cape Verde Season anymore!"
..WWWWWHHHHHAAAAAAAA !!!!!!!!!!!!!...
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Quoting hydrus:
In your younger days the Appalachian Mountains were taller than the present Himalaya,s . The Appalachian Mountain range is one of the oldest on the planet.,,,Just worn down a bit..:)


Who do you think wore it down?? :)
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Quoting hydrus:
Tropical wave over Africa maybe.?
"How many times have we told you, Africa? It's not Cape Verde Season anymore!"
Member Since: August 18, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 994
maybe somethin might form down the road, lol
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
Tropical wave over Africa maybe.?
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Nice lil blob north of Colombia..
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Quoting Grothar:


In my younger days, we used to climb it.

Quoting Grothar:


In my younger days, we used to climb it.

In your younger days the Appalachian Mountains were taller than the present Himalaya,s . The Appalachian Mountain range is one of the oldest on the planet.,,,Just worn down a bit..:)
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Quoting hydrus:
The largest bump in Florida is 345 FT high...Some place near Jay.


In my younger days, we used to climb it.

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Quoting Grothar:


There are no hills in most of Florida, just big bumps.
The largest bump in Florida is 345 FT high...Some place near Jay.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 19537
406. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
India Meteorological Department
Tropical Cyclone Advisory #9
DEPRESSION ARB04-2011
23:30 PM IST November 27 2011
=================================

At 18:00 PM UTC, Depression ARB04-2011 over Lakshadweep area continued to move northwestwards and lays centered over east central and adjoining southeast Arabian sea near 12.5N 71.0E, or 240 km northwest of Amini Divi (Lakshadweep Island), 750 km southwest of Mumbai and 400 km west of Manglore (Karnataka).

The system is likely to intensify into a deep depression and subsequently into a cyclonic storm and move northwestwards during next 48 hrs.

Damage expected over Lakshadweep Islands: Minor damage to loose and unsecured structures.
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Quoting stormpetrol:
Nice spin near 12.5N/77W Link


Yes there is. A little elongated to the WSW but there is definitely a LLC coming together.
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WTIO31 PGTW 272100
MSGID/GENADMIN/NAVMARFCSTCEN PEARL HARBOR HI/JTWC//
SUBJ/TROPICAL CYCLONE 05A (FIVE) WARNING NR 008//
RMKS/
1. TROPICAL CYCLONE 05A (FIVE) WARNING NR 008
01 ACTIVE TROPICAL CYCLONE IN NORTHIO
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS BASED ON ONE-MINUTE AVERAGE
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
---
WARNING POSITION:
271800Z --- NEAR 13.5N 70.1E
MOVEMENT PAST SIX HOURS - 315 DEGREES AT 18KTS
POSITION ACCURATE TO WITHIN 060NM
POSITION BASED ON CENTER LOCATED BY SATELLITE
PRESENT WIND DISTRIBUTION:
MAX SUSTAINED WINDS - 035 KT, GUSTS 045 KT
WIND RADII VALID OVER OPEN WATER ONLY
REPEAT POSIT: 13.5N 70.1E
---
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
Quoting WxGeekVA:



Speaking of Kenneth, his remains are generating some thunderstorm activity, as seen on the far left of this image.




wow thats nuts
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Nice spin near 12.5N/77W Link
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Quoting hydrus:
The CMC is smoking them extra fat today..


CMC keeps smoking stuff for 90 hrs.... but GFS keeps taking it cooler....





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Quoting interstatelover7165:
"http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/few.jpg"
Look at this web address for one of the weather icons on the NWS website lol

I used to play around with these all the time.

Link

I've never seen them use the tornado one.
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395. Musta pumped up da ridge.
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Quoting Tazmanian:
what you guys think


Dan the Weatherman on November 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm said:

According to tonight’s San Diego NWS forecast discussion, a 590 DM upper level high is forecast to build over our area from the west along with a surface high over Utah. That is an awfully strong upper high for this time of year, as highs of that strength are usually seen in the summer months. With the high this strong, it could possibly reach 90 in some areas. I wonder of Hurricane Kenneth has anything to do with the strength of this high.



Speaking of Kenneth, his remains are generating some thunderstorm activity, as seen on the far left of this image.

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as of 193000 UTC for Tropical Cyclone Five:

CI#/ Pressure/ Vmax
2.5/ 1004.5mb/ 35.0kt


Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
2.5 2.8 3.0
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"http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/few.jpg"
Look at this web address for one of the weather icons on the NWS website lol
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what you guys think


Dan the Weatherman on November 24, 2011 at 10:33 pm said:

According to tonight’s San Diego NWS forecast discussion, a 590 DM upper level high is forecast to build over our area from the west along with a surface high over Utah. That is an awfully strong upper high for this time of year, as highs of that strength are usually seen in the summer months. With the high this strong, it could possibly reach 90 in some areas. I wonder of Hurricane Kenneth has anything to do with the strength of this high.
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Quoting weatherh98:
I'm watching gold rush and was wondering about permafrost does anyone know anything??

Wikipedia is your friend for anything and everything.

"In geology, permafrost, cryotic soil or permafrost soil is soil at or below the freezing point of water (0 C or 32 F) for two or more years."
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I'm watching gold rush and was wondering about permafrost does anyone know anything??
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Quoting SPLbeater:


? YES

No.
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Quoting Grothar:


There are no hills in most of Florida, just big bumps.
I feel sorry for Floridians.D.C and Maryland are hilly places.And so is virginia.Don't worry Florida.Maybe they can build forts?.
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Quoting Grothar:


There are no hills in most of Florida, just big bumps.
lol
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

No.


? YES
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Quoting SPLbeater:
I want a ferrari 360 Spider

No.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
We're gonna be under attack next yeear!!!.Run for the hills!!!!!.Lol.


There are no hills in most of Florida, just big bumps.
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NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center Andrew, Irene could have been officially a hurricane at landfall even without hurricane-force winds occurring over land. Irene's strongest winds were east of the center over water, not over New Jersey. Having said that, Irene's final best track is still under review
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Quoting SPLbeater:
I want a ferrari 360 Spider


I want a Lexus lfa or a Porsche gt3
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Quoting Grothar:


It's a conspiracy!!
We're gonna be under attack next yeear!!!.Run for the hills!!!!!.Lol.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
That really is interesting...That trend goes all the way back to the 1970s (that's where I've gotten to):

2008: Ike, Gustav, etc.

2004: Ivan, Jeanne, etc.

2000: Keith (Mexico)

1996: Fran

1992: Andrew

1988: Gilbert, Joan (Mexico)

1984: Diana

1980: Allen

1976: Belle


It's a conspiracy!!
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Quoting yqt1001:
I really doubt it is a trend. Hurricanes hit the US and Mexico all the time, nothing new, it usually occurs once a year.
Trend or not it's an interesting find and something fun to do research on.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
That really is interesting...That trend goes all the way back to the 1970s (that's where I've gotten to):

2008: Ike, Gustav, etc.

2004: Ivan, Jeanne, etc.

2000: Keith (Mexico)

1996: Fran

1992: Andrew

1988: Gilbert, Joan (Mexico)

1984: Diana

1980: Allen

1976: Belle



Joan in 1988 was a South America / Nicaragua storm. Not Mexico.
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I really doubt it is a trend. Hurricanes hit the US and Mexico all the time, nothing new, it usually occurs once a year.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
That really is interesting...That trend goes all the way back to the 1970s (that's where I've gotten to):

2008: Ike, Gustav, etc.

2004: Ivan, Jeanne, etc.

2000: Keith (Mexico)

1996: Fran

1992: Andrew

1988: Gilbert, Joan (Mexico)

1984: Diana

1980: Allen

1976: Belle
I hope the U.S is spared next year.So far in terms of hurricane damage over all we've been doing good with the exception of Irene(and Lee to some extent).
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
That really is interesting...That trend goes all the way back to the 1970s (that's where I've gotten to):

2008: Ike, Gustav, etc.

2004: Ivan, Jeanne, etc.

2000: Keith (Mexico)

1996: Fran

1992: Andrew

1988: Gilbert, Joan (Mexico)

1984: Diana

1980: Allen

1976: Belle


Charley and Frances in '04 :)
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That really is interesting...That trend goes all the way back to the 1970s (that's where I've gotten to):

2008: Ike, Gustav, etc.

2004: Ivan, Jeanne, etc.

2000: Keith (Mexico)

1996: Fran

1992: Andrew

1988: Gilbert, Joan (Mexico)

1984: Diana

1980: Allen

1976: Belle
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
Quoting washingtonian115:
I've just noticed that every leap year hurricane season since 1992 with the exception of 2000 the U.S got slammed by a hurricane or several of them.The most recent exsamples are 04,and 08 which the U.S got hit hard by several tropical cyclones.Next year will be a leap year..let's see what happens then.Maybe..it's just by accident?

That is an interesting find...I'll have to look into that.
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Quoting pottery:

Loud rumbles just south of here right now, and rain again.....
Greetings Pott.....Hows the red these days.:)
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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.