Hurricane Preparedness Week

Release Date:

May 3rd to  May 9th is National Hurricane Preparedness Week, a week dedicated to informing everyone about hurricane hazards and disseminating knowledge that can be used to prepare and take action!   


Storm surge, coastal erosion, and inland flooding are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes, with the capacity to destroy homes and businesses, wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems, and profoundly alter landscapes. The USGS has experts on these hazards, computer models for forecasting them, and sophisticated equipment for monitoring actual flood and tide conditions.  

Below we have highlighted various USGS resources, tools, and research to help you better prepare for your local 2020 hurricane season (Western Pacific: May 15-November 30, Atlantic: June 1-November 30, and Central Pacific: June 1-November 30). 


Coastal Change Hazards Portal

The Coastal Change Hazards portal is a tool developed by USGS to forecast the probability of coastal change on sandy beaches along the U.S. Gulf and Atlantic coasts during hurricane conditions. It predicts where protective sand dunes are likely to be eroded at their bases or overtopped by storm waves and where coastal areas behind the dunes could be inundated by seawater. 

The forecasts begin 48 hours before a storm is expected to make landfall and are updated based on the latest forecasts from the National Hurricane Center. The portal also allows you to see predictions for extreme water levels, shoreline change, and sea-level rise. These forecasts can be used to help emergency managers with hurricane preparation in coastal zones. 

Coastal Change Hazards Portal

The National Assessment of Coastal Change Hazards Portal allows online access to the data and tools that enable users to apply coastal change hazard assessments to their specific needs.

Total Water Level Viewer

USGS scientists developed the Total Water Level viewer to allow coastal managers and others to see how high water levels could rise along sandy coastlines. The tool displays operational total water level forecasts and coastal change predictions for select regions of the U.S. coastline using local beach characteristics. Total water level (TWL) at the shoreline is the combination of tides, surge, and wave runup. A forecast of TWL is an estimate of the elevation where the ocean will meet the coast and can provide guidance on potential coastal erosion and flooding hazards.

Screen shot of total water level viewer

Total Water Level Viewer displays operational total water level forecasts and coastal change predictions for select regions of the U.S. coastline using local beach characteristics.

Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere-Waves-Sediment Transport (COAWST) Modeling System 

To better understand storm impacts and their effects on our coastlines, we need to better predict storm paths and intensities. To fill this gap, the USGS has been leading the development of a Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere-Waves-Sediment Transport (COAWST) Modeling System

COAWST is an open-source tool that combines many sophisticated systems that each provide relative earth-system components necessary to investigate the dynamics of coastal storm impacts. The USGS has provided enhanced capabilities to allow these components to feed back to one another. For example, a typical hurricane modeling simulation may include great details for the atmosphere component, but with limited connectivity to the ocean. However, with the COAWST system , these simulations will allow the ocean and waves to dynamically evolve and provide a feedback to the atmosphere simulation. This will modify the storm development and provide a more realistic suite of physical storm processes. 

screen shot of COAWST Modeling System

COAWST Modeling System is an open-source tool that combines systems to investigate the dynamics of coastal storm impacts.

Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) 

The Coastal Storm Modeling System (CoSMoS) is a dynamic modeling approach that has been developed by the United States Geological Survey in order to allow more detailed predictions of coastal flooding due to both future sea-level rise and storms integrated with long-term coastal evolution (i.e., beach changes and cliff/bluff retreat) over large geographic areas (100s of kilometers). 

Application window with parameter settings down the left, map showing results of parameter settings, and legend on right.

Example of CoSMoS model output for San Diego showing duration of flooding. Results displayed on Our Coast, Our Future flood mapper.


The USGS closely monitors hurricanes in consultation with the National Hurricane Center and other agencies. USGS deploys field crews and equipment to provide critical data before, during and after a hurricane. 

2019 Hurricanes Dorian 
Tropical Storm Barry 
2018 Hurricanes Michael  
2017 Hurricanes Nate 
2016 Hurricane Matthew 
2015 Hurricane Joaquin 
2012 Hurricanes Sandy
2005 Hurricane Katrina 


The Value of U.S. Coral Reefs for Risk Reduction 

The degradation of coral reefs raises flood risks by increasing the exposure of coastal communities to storms. Annually U.S. coral reefs provide flood protection benefits to more than 18,100 people and $1.8 billion in averted damages to property and economic activity. 

Aerial imagery of islands are marked to show different data about each island's coast.

Maps of American Samoa showing the distribution of the value of averted direct building damages, indirect economic activity losses, and population annually protected from flooding by coral reefs. Results at 10 m2 resolution are aggregated into 2-km coastal sections.

Remote Sensing 

USGS uses remote-sensing technologies – such as aerial photography, satellite imagery, and lidar (laser-based surveying) – to  measure coastal change along U.S. coastlines. Quantifying coastal change is essential for calculating trends in erosion, evaluating processes that shape coastal landscapes, and predicting how the coast will respond to future storms, including hurricanes, and sea-level rise. 

Big Sur landslide on May 20, 2017 showing material across Highway 1.

USGS air photo of the Mud Creek landslide, taken on May 27, 2017.


Aerial Photography Viewer 

Researchers can use this imagery to quickly verify coastal change model predictions, as well as inform coastal planners and managers decisions on their response to future storms. With the Aerial Photography Viewer, you can view specific baseline or storm mission activities and their related pre-mission imagery. 

Oblique aerial photograph near Rodanthe, NC, looking south along the coast on August 30, 2011, three days after landfall of Hurr

Oblique aerial photograph near Rodanthe, North Carolina, looking south along the coast on August 30, 2011, three days after landfall of Hurricane Irene. 

USGS Youth Education in Science: Learn From Home 

The focus of week 8 of the YES Learn From Home Program is Floods & Hurricanes. Utilize these resources to teach the family about the impacts of hurricanes, or conduct fun erosion activities in the classroom! 

Screen grab of Youth Education in Science Learn From Home

Youth Education in Science Learn From Home Program

Hurricane Preparedness Video 

Before a hurricane, USGS Scientists undertake a data collection effort of a grand scale. They install a temporary mobile network of sensors along the coasts to collect additional data on the intensity of storm surge, one of the most dangerous elements of a hurricane. This effort provides critical information that allows various USGS partners and emergency responders to make better informed decisions during and after these extreme weather events.

Screen grab of hurricane preparedness video showing an eye

Hurricane Preparedness Video​​​​​​​