NOS Responds to Hurricane Irene

August 30, 2011
Hurricane Irene montage

NOS contributes a host of services before, during, and after a hurricane strikes, ranging from tidal and current information, to navigation and aerial surveys, to long-range recovery assistance planning. The following is a synopsis of NOS storm-related activity and data for Hurricane Irene as of Aug. 29.

Water Levels:

  • Before, during, and after the storm, NOAA monitored and disseminated 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. NOS also activated Storm QuickLook, an online compilation of ocean and weather observations within a coastal area.
  • NOAA monitored Hurricane Irene’s effects on water levels using data from 63 tide gauges from Florida to Maine and 15 U.S. gauges in the Caribbean.
  • Along the North Carolina coast, surge values ranged from 1 foot at Wilmington to about 6.2 feet above predicted tide levels at Oregon Inlet Marina. The Oregon Inlet Marina reading was the highest storm surge observation from Hurricane Irene.
  • Stations near the entrance to Chesapeake Bay recorded storm surge values between 4 and 5 feet above predicted tide levels.
  • Stations from New York City to Woods Hole, Mass., had maximum storm surge values between 3 and 5 feet above predicted tide levels.

Navigational Surveys:

  • Before the hurricane, NOAA positioned Navigation Response Teams to provide emergency hydrographic services for affected port areas. Three NOAA vessels are surveying the Hampton Roads area (Port of Virginia) for hazards. The survey will cover 200 linear nautical miles.
  • There were 12 major ports in the path of Hurricane Irene. In all, there were 192 ports in the path of storm.
  • NOAA mobilized seven survey vessels from North Carolina to Rhode Island to provide navigation response.

Emergency Response Imagery:

  • On Aug. 29, NOAA began flying photo survey missions to assess storm damage. NOAA collected more than 1,500 images the first day and will continue to collect additional imagery of affected areas.
  • NOAA collected topographic light detection and ranging (LIDAR) images of the same area. This will provide elevation data that can be used to determine coastal erosion impacts.

Data Collection & Modeling:

  • The U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) provided data and information to support preparation and response efforts, and to inform forecasts and predictions ahead of Hurricane Irene. The Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Caribbean IOOS regions delivered around-the-clock information on their websites to include models, data from inside the hurricane, tracking information, and classroom lesson plans about hurricanes. Nearly all high frequency radar sites remained running during the tropical storm to collect data on surface currents. The Mid-Atlantic region also used an unmanned, underwater glider to collect data inside the hurricane. NOAA, the Delaware River Basin Commission, Connecticut governor’s office, U.S. Coast Guard, National Hurricane Center, and media outlets used IOOS storm data for various purposes.

Mitigating the Impacts of the Storm:

  • NOAA stands ready to provide assistance in long-term recovery planning in areas impacted by the storm. 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.
  • NOAA's coastal state and territorial partners in the National Coastal Zone Management Program are on the ground working to respond to and assess damage from Hurricane Irene. For example, Highway 12 along the Outer Banks sustained damage and several new inlets were breached in the area.
  • Through NOAA's support under the Coastal Zone Management Act and state matching funds, about $5 million is spent annually to mitigate coastal hazards in the areas hit by Irene, helping to offset overall damages through ongoing management of coastal resources and development.

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