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 pottery:

Loud rumbles just south of here right now, and rain again.....
Greetings Pott.....Hows the red these days.:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
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?
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16432
Tropical Cyclone 05A

----- Current Anylasis -----
Date : 27 NOV 2011 Time : 170000 UTC
Lat : 12:52:38 N Lon : 70:45:40 E

CI# /Pressure/ Vmax
2.2 /1006.8mb/ 32.0kt

Final T# Adj T# Raw T#
2.2 2.4 2.7
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
Quoting NCHurricane2009:


Sorry...just logged on & tried to figure it out by scrolling thru previous comments....what is that system? What was controversial about that system?

That is a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico in October of 1954.
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Quoting hydrus:
( This is a photo mosaic of the first natural color images of the Earth successfully taken from a high-altitude rocket. It image shows a large swathe of land to the south and east of the launch site and a tropical cyclone is visible over Del Rio, Texas. This image is also the first ever taken from a sufficient altitude to show the large scale structure of a storm and hints at the promise of meteorological satellites. The rocket was a US Navy sounding rocket launched at 1815 GMT on October 5, 1954 from White Sands, New Mexico and it was at an altitude of about 100 miles when this image was captured.....Excerpt from Wiki. Cyclone is over the Gulf of Mexico near Texas.


Sorry...just logged on & tried to figure it out by scrolling thru previous comments....what is that system? What was controversial about that system?
Member Since: September 15, 2009 Posts: 444 Comments: 3619
Quoting DDR:
Good afternoon
looks like some decent rains for the islands of the eastern caribbean over the next 3 days,picked up 1.7 inches this afternoon and possibly around 18 - 20 inches in total by month's end.

Loud rumbles just south of here right now, and rain again.....
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368. DDR
Good afternoon
looks like some decent rains for the islands of the eastern caribbean over the next 3 days,picked up 1.7 inches this afternoon and possibly around 18 - 20 inches in total by month's end.
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367. Skyepony (Mod)
I'm having a hard time getting behind that NAO forecast. Back in Sept when the 1/2 around Greenland was above average with sea ice & the 1/2 around Alaska was below normal pos NAO looked eminent. How fast thing can change, anomalies here.. This is why I called this front to be so deep digging over a week ago..

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Strong winds in the Gulf of Mexico:

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365. Skyepony (Mod)
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Quoting hydrus:
( This is a photo mosaic of the first natural color images of the Earth successfully taken from a high-altitude rocket. It image shows a large swathe of land to the south and east of the launch site and a tropical cyclone is visible over Del Rio, Texas. This image is also the first ever taken from a sufficient altitude to show the large scale structure of a storm and hints at the promise of meteorological satellites. The rocket was a US Navy sounding rocket launched at 1815 GMT on October 5, 1954 from White Sands, New Mexico and it was at an altitude of about 100 miles when this image was captured.....Excerpt from Wiki. Cyclone is over the Gulf of Mexico near Texas.

Surprisingly, that was only a tropical depression.
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Quoting Articuno:

And to tell me that is a cat 1? 0_o it looks stronger.
( This is a photo mosaic of the first natural color images of the Earth successfully taken from a high-altitude rocket. It image shows a large swathe of land to the south and east of the launch site and a tropical cyclone is visible over Del Rio, Texas. This image is also the first ever taken from a sufficient altitude to show the large scale structure of a storm and hints at the promise of meteorological satellites. The rocket was a US Navy sounding rocket launched at 1815 GMT on October 5, 1954 from White Sands, New Mexico and it was at an altitude of about 100 miles when this image was captured.....Excerpt from Wiki. Cyclone is over the Gulf of Mexico near Texas.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
What an odd system to bring snow this far south in November. I'd like to see one of those with 5 standard deviations below normal roll thru in January!
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Quoting Articuno:

And to tell me that is a cat 1? 0_o it looks stronger.
It does look stronger. Well formed eye wall. And large too..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting Grothar:


Hello!

Hi
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2296
Quoting Patrap:
...There are now 389 days till the 2012 Winter Solstice.

Enjoy your Sunday






Seems as if that 2012 Winter solstice will never get here!
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...There are now 389 days till the 2012 Winter Solstice.

Enjoy your Sunday
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127628
NOLA Discussion

Previous discussion... /issued 401 am CST sun Nov 27 2011/


Short term...

cold front is steadily tracking across the County Warning Area and should reach the eastern fringe of our County Warning Area at the MS/Alabama border between 10 and 11z.
As
expected...at this point the frontal boundary is comprised of a broken thin line of moderate to heavy showers with an occasional rumble of thunder. A larger band of Post frontal weak rain hasdeveloped...extending from the southwestern Gulf...across the western fringes of the area and towards the Ohio River valley.


Rainfall amounts should be quite low as this band tracks eastward today and models suggest a deterioration of the southern extent of
it along our coast. Overcast conditions along with colder air mass moving in will keep temperatures from moving much if any from current. The
should fall into the upper 30s overnight despite cloud cover due to upper level low tracking over the area and heights/thicknesses decrease significantly.


Upper low will be slow to completely exiting the region...still centered near MS/al/TN intersection Monday afternoon. Thinking is that wrap around rainfall will still be falling across northestern half of the
area. So have kept isolated showers in the forecast. Well below normal highs can be expected as well with temperatures only in the lower to middle 50s through the day.


Long term...

finally to begin clearing out Monday night into Tuesday. Lows will fall into the lower to middle 30s then and not warm up much the rest of
the week. Another secondary surge of cold air is expected to reach the area middle week as a trough follows right behind the current.

No time for southeast winds to bring any moisture back so this will be a dry front as well as another quick front on Friday. So in general...no rain and temperatures about 10 degrees below normal for the
entire week. Lower latitude trough may approach the area sometime next weekend. As with the current system...GFS is faster and European model (ecmwf)
is slower.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127628
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:

It had recon -- 80 mph peak.

I know, it's not that, it just looks like a different category then it is.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2296
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Let it Snow! Too bad it won't make it to the GOM.
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Quoting Articuno:

And to tell me that is a cat 1? 0_o it looks stronger.

It had recon -- 80 mph peak.
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Quoting hydrus:
Hurricane Alice in December of 1954 near the Virgin Islands. Alice survived into 1955 making it a rare one indeed..

And to tell me that is a cat 1? 0_o it looks stronger.
Member Since: October 22, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 2296
349. HadesGodWyvern (Mod)
At 12:00 PM UTC, Depression ARB04-2011 over Lakshadweep area continued to move northwestwards and lays centered over southeast and adjoining east central Arabian sea near 12.0N 71.5E, 150 Km northwest of Amini Divi (Lakshadweep Island) and 350 km north-northwest of Manglore(Karnataka).

The system is likely to intensify slowly into a deep depression and subsequently into a cyclonic storm and move northwestwards during next 72 hrs.

Damage expected over Lakshadweep Islands: Minor damage to loose and unsecured structures.

According to satellite imagery, the Dvorak intensity of the system is T1.5. The convection shows no significant change during past 12 hours. The lowest cloud top temperature is about -89C. Associated broken intense to very intense convection is seen over area between 11.0N to 16.5N and 66.0E to 72.5E.

3 minute sustained winds near the center is 25 knots with gusts of 35 knots. The central pressure of the system is 1000 hPa. The state of the sea is rough to very rough around the center.

The Madden-Julian Oscillation index lies in phase 3 with amplitude of more than 1. As per the dynamical it would lie over the same phase 3 during the next 3-4 days. Phase 3 is favorable for intensification of the system over the Arabian Sea. Sea surface temperature is 29C around the system and gradually decreasing to the north and west. The ocean heat content is less (80-90 kj/cm2) over southeast and east central Arabian Sea and less than 40 kj/cm2 over west central and northern Arabian Sea. The relative vorticity and low level convergence at 850 hpa level and upper level divergence show no change during past 12 hours. The vertical win shear of horizontal wind over the region continues to be high. There is no significant change in 24 hour tendency of vertical wind shear around the system. The system lies to the south of upper tropospheric ridge, which roughly runs along 16.0N in association with an anticyclonic circulation over west central Bay of Bengal and adjoining Andhra Pradesh as a result the system lies in the southwestern periphery of this anticyclonic circulation in middle and upper troposphere. The high vertical wind shear will continue to inhibit the intensification of the system. As the system will move further north and lie closer to the ridge, the vertical wind shear will decrease, leading to intensification.
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SOUTHEAST DUSTING POSSIBLE
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gfs



nam
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6461
Link

wator vapor, check out how strong/deep this trough is you can see the cold canadian air diving south
Member Since: June 17, 2011 Posts: 11 Comments: 6461
Hello from El Paso, drove out here to Welcome my daughter and all the soldiers home, God Bless them all. Drove 10 hours into 50 mph wind gusts and a pretty major dust storm through about 250 miles of my trip. Visibility was pretty bad for several hours. Pretty darn cold out here also. Picked up another inch of rain Saturday at home, almost 40 percent of my yearly rainfall has fallen since Oct. 8th which is up to around 13 inches now. Have a great day!
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"Rescuers searching for six Russian seamen missing after a cargo vessel sank off north Wales in gale force weather say one crew member has been recovered.

Five crew from the 81-metre (265ft) Swanland are still missing." Link

Highest recorded wind from the system so far was 90mph on Fair Isle, Scotland. Still pretty blustery outside, even here. Everything else suggests no real disruption or damage, just your usual autumn-wintertime gale.

The low pressure was named "Yoda" by FU-Berlin. (Yes, seriously).

Use the 'gale' force?
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The second hurricane to have its radar picture taken was Typhoon Cobra on December 18, 1944.




The first hurricane to have its radar picture taken was the Great Atlantic Hurricane in September 1944 which had its radar picture taken from Bell Labs in New Jersey. That was when hurricane spiral bands were discovered. Couldn't find a picture of it though. I read about it in a book about hurricane history in the northeast. Although the book didn't have a radar picture of the September 1944 hurricane either.
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Quoting hydrus:
Hurricane 4 in 1946..When this radar image was taken, it was only the third time in history that a hurricane passed close enough to a radar site to reveal its structure.


What was the first storm to be captured on radar? picture?
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Quoting SPLbeater:


yeah, or the name Wilma coincidently slides into place whenever a cyclone has perfect conditions lol. either way, i like this WIlma better because she didnt kill anybody, or cause any damage. Bet the fish wouldnt say that tho =P
I still am fascinated by the fact that we had a hurricane named Wilma, and that it reached cat-5 strength. A name so far down the list attaining that strength would have seemed almost like science fiction 30 years ago. But there it is.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting washingtonian115:
The name Wilma seems to be a common name for powerful cyclones.


yeah, or the name Wilma coincidently slides into place whenever a cyclone has perfect conditions lol. either way, i like this WIlma better because she didnt kill anybody, or cause any damage. Bet the fish wouldnt say that tho =P
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
Quoting Grothar:


No, up until 1750, I was still living in Europe.:P
Likely story..cough, ..hack..How did ya get to Florida?..Galleon perhaps.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting washingtonian115:
Are you sure it is?.J/K :)


Well, there was one in 1850, before records were kept. So I am not sure if that counts.
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Quoting hydrus:
Lol..ya sure there wasnt a couple earlier storms that may have slipped your mind?


No, up until 1750, I was still living in Europe.:P
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Quoting Grothar:


Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, it it the first Hurricane I actually remember.
Are you sure it is?.J/K :)
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16432
Quoting Grothar:


Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, it it the first Hurricane I actually remember.
Lol..ya sure there wasnt a couple earlier storms that may have slipped your mind?
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting TampaSpin:



Pack a thick heavy jacket late next week.....the first of the week will be very mild.



Thanks, TSpin. I even plussed you for that one. It's nice to get plussed once in awhile.
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Quoting hydrus:
I believe you remember this one. Hurricane 7, September 21- 1948..


Yes, I do. As a matter of fact, it it the first Hurricane I actually remember.
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Quoting SPLbeater:


Here is Cyclone Wilma at peak intensity January 26th 2011:
The name Wilma seems to be a common name for powerful cyclones.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Lucky!.


Here is Cyclone Wilma at peak intensity January 26th 2011:
Member Since: August 4, 2011 Posts: 46 Comments: 4481
Hurricane 4 in 1946..When this radar image was taken, it was only the third time in history that a hurricane passed close enough to a radar site to reveal its structure.
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting Grothar:


It was in capital, that is why I didn't see it. I am traveling up to the Northeast this week. Anything brewing up that way?
I believe you remember this one. Hurricane 7, September 21- 1948..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting Grothar:


It was in capital, that is why I didn't see it. I am traveling up to the Northeast this week. Anything brewing up that way?
Sam Adams usually has a few bottles of brew laying around. Cant guarantee there will be any left when ya get ther..
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520
Quoting Grothar:


It was in capital, that is why I didn't see it. I am traveling up to the Northeast this week. Anything brewing up that way?



Pack a thick heavy jacket late next week.....the first of the week will be very mild.

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Quoting hydrus:
It will be interesting to see how this winter pans out with the La-Nina and all....
It better be better than the last one.Having a dull snow season is like the hurricane season from 09.Daaaaaaaawww!!!.
Quoting SPLbeater:


das my birthday, Jan. 26. i felt good last january, celebrating my birthday with Category 4 Cyclone Wilma at peak intensity in Sw Pacific, heh
Lucky!.
Member Since: August 14, 2010 Posts: 10 Comments: 16432
Quoting hydrus:
.Did you read post #303? ..?..And chopped liver aint so bad...:)


It was in capital, that is why I didn't see it. I am traveling up to the Northeast this week. Anything brewing up that way?
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Quoting Grothar:


What am I, chopped liver? Look at post #302.
.Did you read post #303? ..?..And chopped liver aint so bad...:)
Member Since: September 27, 2007 Posts: 1 Comments: 20520

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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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