NOS Hurricane Response (PDF, 426 kb)
The following is a compilation of National Ocean Service roles and responsibilities before, during, and after a hurricane.
Before, during, and after a storm, NOAA monitors and disseminates observations of water levels, currents, and weather information in real time via the National Water Level Observation Network and the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System. Collected real-time environmental information helps coastal authorities prepare for, mitigate, and respond to storm tides and coastal flooding. NOS also regularly updates Storm QuickLook, an online compilation of ocean and weather observations within a coastal area.
Ocean and Coastal Data
NOAA coordinates the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®). This federal, regional, and private-sector partnership provides ocean and coastal data and information to support preparation and response efforts and to inform forecasts and predictions ahead of hurricanes. IOOS data helps decision makers protect our safety, economy, and environment.
As a storm approaches U.S. coastal areas, the Office of Coast Survey mobilizes for rapid deployment to affected port areas. After the hurricane moves out, Navigation Response Teams move in to conduct hydrographic surveying, looking for shoaling and submerged obstructions that pose hazards to vessels. These teams work with the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies to speed the re-opening of ports and waterways, allowing the flow of relief supplies, and enabling the resumption of ocean commerce - with cargo valued at more than $1.7 trillion annually.
Aerial Photography Surveys
Just hours after a hurricane hits a coastal area, the National Geodetic Survey begins flying photo survey missions to assess storm damage. The data contained in these photos provide emergency and coastal managers with information needed to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search and rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation necessary for damage assessment through the comparison of before and after imagery.
Hazardous Spill Response
After a hurricane, the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific support to hazardous materials response efforts in coastal areas. The office surveys vessels or containers that may be leaking fuel, oil, or other hazardous materials; flies missions to identify and document spill sources; and uses computer models to predict spill movement and determine pollution threats. OR&R also provides guidance on marine debris and vessel salvage, conducts shoreline cleanup assessments, collects information to understand natural resource impacts from spills in affected areas, and works to assess and restore resources injured by spills.
NOAA's National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and its partners assess the state of contamination in coastal waters before and after natural and man-made disasters. Federal and state officials have used the data to evaluate whether restoration efforts are on track.
Maps and Data Analysis
Following a hurricane, the NOAA Coastal Services Center provides the satellite and aerial images needed to generate maps that help officials understand the long-term effects of the hurricane. These data products include pre-hurricane imagery and digital elevation data from a variety of sources; before and after imagery comparisons; and maps depicting ecological impacts, debris assessment, and wetlands loss along the coast. The Center may also conduct studies that focus on a storm’s economic impacts.
Long-term Recovery Planning
The NOAA Coastal Services Center and the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management provide assistance in long-term recovery planning in areas impacted by a hurricane. Staff may assist in the development of coastal project plans, coordinate with other federal and state organizations involved in recovery planning, and assist with the design and implementation of activities to involve local communities in planning for their own long-term recovery.