NOS Hurricane Harvey Response

The breadth of the National Ocean Service's response to Hurricane Harvey is far-reaching. To date:

The Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) issued Storm QuickLook postings every six hours since early on August 24. The product provides a synopsis of near real-time oceanographic and meteorological observations at locations affected by the storm. There are currently 36 operational water level stations along the Texas Coastline, which include NOAA National Water Level Observation Network stations, Physical Oceanographic Real Time Systems, and Texas Coastal Ocean Observation Network stations. As of August 31, all but two of the 36 stations were disseminating water level data. On August 29, CO-OPS issued a peak water level graphic that showed the highest water levels measured at NOAA tide stations thus far during the storm. At that time, Manchester, Texas, had the highest recorded water levels at 9.33 feet above Mean Higher High Water.

As of August 29, the National Geodetic Survey collected more than 7,300 aerial oblique images covering more than 579 square miles along the Texas coast, from South Padre Island to Capano Village north of Rockport. Flights started on August 27, as soon as weather allowed, and continue daily. Images are processed and posted online within hours of the plane landing. The imagery can be used for a variety of purposes, including recovery strategies, search-and-rescue efforts, hazard identification, vessel locations, and damage assessment. Images can be viewed online. NGS conducts surveys as requested by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or a state, territory, or tribe in coordination with FEMA.

Before Harvey made landfall, the Office of Coast Survey (OCS) began to position personnel and assets in strategic locations in proximity to the Texas coastline. The western Gulf Coast navigation manager was at Houston's Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base supporting response coordination efforts. The eastern Gulf Coast navigation manager was at the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG) Sector Corpus Christi supporting response coordination efforts. OCS survey capabilities were first requested to assist in the vicinity of Corpus Christi, where NOAA's Navigation Response Team 2 (NRT) began surveys on August 30. NRT 4, homeported in Galveston, was in a holding pattern until waters recede in the Houston area. OCS was also mobilizing personnel from the Navigation Response Branch, NOAA Research Vessel Bay Hydro II, and NRT 5 to Stennis, Mississippi, to support the mobile integrated survey team (MIST) and augment staffing for NRT4. NRT 1, homeported at Stennis, was standing by to provide logistics coordination and MIST support. The positioning of OCS personnel and assets will help accommodate USCG and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requests for additional assets to support offshore survey needs for port response along the Texas coast.

As the storm passed the affected areas of Texas and Louisiana, scientists from the Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) were standing by, pre-deployed within the region, to work on pollution response. They will address issues including marine debris and oil and chemical spills in the coastal environment. OR&R provides scientific support to the USCG during coastal disasters.

The Office for Coastal Management (OCM) assisted the National Hurricane Center by providing the underlying elevation models and sea level rise data used to develop storm surge forecast maps—instrumental tools for Texas preparations and decision making. The maps were issued for the first time to prepare for Harvey. Additionally, OCM held disaster planning workshops and helped develop disaster response plans for five National Estuarine Research Reserves in the Gulf region. Harvey dealt a severe blow to the facilities at Texas's Mission-Aransas reserve headquarters in Port Aransas, but the disaster preparedness initiative resulted in pre-storm efforts to protect the staff and reduce damages.

The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) and its Gulf of Mexico Regional Association (GCOOS) are monitoring conditions and providing real-time physical oceanographic data and models. Observing platforms in place include high-frequency radars, buoys, and weather stations, which, with few exceptions, have operated throughout the storm. GCOOS has a single point-of-entry for regional data and tools related to the hurricane. The IOOS Sensor Map issued beta-focused data views showing Hurricane Harvey barometric pressure; Hurricane Harvey water level; Bob Hall Pier – Tide Predictions vs. Observed Tides; and Hurricane Harvey Winds.

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries reports that the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary facilities in Galveston have sustained flood damage but appear to be intact. The facility will remain closed through at least next week. The sanctuary's Research Vessel Manta and other small boats are standing by to assist with search-and-rescue efforts.

Nicole R. LeBoeuf
Deputy Assistant Administrator Ocean Services and Coastal
Zone Management, National Ocean Service