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NOAA Coastal Storms Program

Coastal Storms Program: Tools for all Communities

NOAA Coastal Services Center

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NOAA’s Coastal Storms Program Strengthens Coastal Communities for Disasters

The Coastal Storms Program is a nationwide effort led by NOAA to reduce loss of life and negative impacts on coastal property and the environment caused by coastal storms.

The frequency and intensity of coastal storms, according to the best predictions, will multiply. This risk is even more significant considering that by 2025, 75 percent of the U.S. population will live within 50 miles of a coast. This measns that coastal storms will impact more lives and property than ever before. Loss and damage from hurricanes alone averages $5.1 billion and 20 deaths per year. Due to the increase in coastal storms and population, a need arose to help communities prepare for and reduce negative impacts from these coastal disasters.

NOAA has responded to this challenge by initiating the Coastal Storms Program (CSP) – a NOAA program that develops user-driven products that address storm risks in a targeted regional context. Partnerships with federal, state, and local organizations are key to the success of CSP and NOAA’s ability to increase the resiliency (ability to “bounce back”) of coastal communities from storm impacts. Supporting an outreach coordinator located in the region is key to rapidly targeting the needs and producing products relevant to local citizens. The goal of the program is to reduce loss of life and negative impacts on coastal property and the environment caused by coastal storms.

Coastal flooding

Floods are the most frequent natural disaster; one in three federal disaster declarations is related to flooding.

Pilot Project in Florida
CSP began in 2002 with a pilot project effort in Northeast Florida, which has been hit by more tropical storms and hurricanes than any other state. The goal for this project was to promote navigational safety, improve weather observations and predictions, and help the community prepare for known and unknown hazards associated with hurricanes and other tropical storms.

From 2002-2004, the project team invested more than $6.79 million in product development and operations and maintenance costs. The project improved navigational safety of the region’s multi-billion dollar shipping industry with several million bathymetric soundings, along with new models and data on real-time and forecast riverine and marine conditions.

Continued Efforts on the West Coast
CSP then expanded to the West Coast – both the Pacific Northwest and Southern California. The Pacific Northwest project sought to improve the region’s ecological resilience by examining pesticides and stormwater runoff as well as how these both of these impacts affect aquatic species in the region, especially salmon. The ecological health of marine resources is extremely important to the economy of the Pacific Northwest. Salmon fishing brings in over $25 million in direct income to the region’s residents. 

Work in Southern California is mitigating the impacts of coastal inundation to the region’s economy and 16 million residents by deploying tools that aid in the preparation and response to extreme coastal flooding. NOAA is reducing the damages coastal storms inflict on the region by providing weather observation tools, flood and pollutant transportation models, and a host of other models and services.

Hurricane Katrina

The Coastal Storms Program expanded its project area to the Northern Gulf in response to Hurricane Katrina. The CSP team is working to integrate federal, state, and local information, data, and tools developed after the hurricane to assist with long-range planning and recovery.

Resources for All Communities
Work for CSP is currently focused on the Gulf of Mexico and transitioning resources to the Pacific Islands. One of the strengths of CSP is the ability to integrate existing products and efforts as well as unite various organizations to create new solutions for a region's storm-related issues. CSP recently implemented a small grants program to provide greater technical and financial support directly to communities.  In many cases, the solutions developed by CSP are applicable to other coastal communities outside of the immediate study area.

There are a wide variety of tools to help communities or individuals assess hazard locations in relation to their home; visualize a three-dimensional storm surge; access real-time flood information to plan evacuation routes; analyze potential losses from floods, hurricane winds, or earthquakes; and find critical storm-related information when it is needed most.