Hurricane Response Science in Texas

Science Center Objects

The USGS Texas Water Science Center (TXWSC) has a hurricane response program which includes a rapid-deployment storm-surge monitor network in advance of hurricanes, real-time monitoring of streamflow throughout the impacted area during a hurricane, and collection of high-water marks and assessment of floods after hurricanes. Visit the links below for more information on our data and science.

HURRICANE SCIENCE CAPABILITIES

TXWSC has expertise in hurricane response science applications, including, but not limited to: 

  • Installing and monitoring hurricane storm surge sensors
  • Marking and surveying of high-water marks
  • Determining peak discharge from indirect measurements
  • Mapping flood Inundation
  • Installing temporary rapid-deployment real-time gages
  • Mapping real-time data with weather and hazards information on the web
  • Developing automated social media channels for data dissemination

 

Find out more about TXWSC flood-response science expertise in this printable information sheet.

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Hurricane Harvey

Addicks Reservoir flooding

Addicks Reservoir (USGS 08073000 - Addicks Reservoir near Addicks, TX) flooding in Houston TX following Hurricane Harvey. 

Before/After comparison of Addicks Reservoir flooding

On August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall at Rockport, Texas. Although Hurricane Harvey was classified as a category 4 hurricane when it made landfall, Harvey's speed slowed considerably and Harvey was reclassified as a tropical storm on August 26. Harvey produced epic amounts of rainfall which exceeded 60 inches in some locations1. Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented storm event and presented a challenge to the scientific community to provide clear and rapid dissemination of changing streamflow conditions and potential flooding concerns.

USGS provided data and communication of changing water conditions across southeast Texas about rising rivers, streams, and lake elevations where USGS has monitoring stations.

In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, the USGS and FEMA initiated a study to evaluate the magnitude of flooding, determine the probability of future occurrence, and map the extent of the flooding in Texas and Louisiana. During August and September 2017, USGS field crews made more than 280 streamflow measurements and collected 2,123 high-water marks in 22 counties in southeast Texas and three parishes across southwest Louisiana.

Peak streamflow data from 74 USGS streamflow-gaging stations (selected stations had at least 15 years of data with no large gaps in the data) were used along with high-water marks measured to create 19 inundation maps to document the areal extent of the maximum depth of the flooding.

Peak streamflow data and inundation maps are available in USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5070.

Flood-inundation map from coastal water-surface elevation data, Hurricane Harvey

Flood-inundation map from coastal water-surface elevation data for the August and September 2017 Hurricane Harvey-related flood event in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana.   Figure 22 from USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5070.

 

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Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike made landfall along the north end of Galveston Island, Texas, on September 13, 2008. At landfall, Hurricane Ike was classified as a category 2 hurricane.

Hurricane Ike radar animation

Radar animation of Hurricane Ike making landfall. Courtesy of NOAA.

The TXWSC and Louisiana Water Science Center deployed a temporary monitoring network of 117 storm surge sensors at 65 sites over an area of about 5,000 square miles to record the timing, areal extent, and magnitude of inland hurricane storm surge and coastal flooding generated by Hurricane Ike. Fifty-six sites were in Texas and nine sites were in Louisiana. Sites were categorized as surge, riverine, or beach/wave on the basis of proximity to the Gulf Coast. One hundred five sensors from 59 sites were recovered.

Data collected from the Hurricane Ike storm surge network are available in USGS Open-File Report 2008-1365

Sensor sites from which storm-surge data were obtained during Hurricane Ike, September 2008.

Sensor sites from which storm-surge data were obtained during Hurricane Ike. Figure 1 from USGS Open-File Report 2008–1365.

 

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Trajectory of Hurricane Rita

Path of Hurricane Rita, September 22-24, 2005, and monitored area in southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas. Figure 1 from USGS Fact Sheet 2006-3136

Hurricane Rita

Hurricane Rita made landfall in southwestern Louisiana on September 24, 2005, just west of Johnsons Bayou and east of Sabine Pass at the Texas-Louisiana border. In response to Hurricane Katrina that occurred 3 weeks prior, Rita triggered the largest evacuation in U.S. history, with the media reporting more than 2 million evacuees from Texas and a smaller number from Louisiana.

Hurricane Rita was the first USGS deployment of an experimental monitoring network of pressure transducers (sensors) to document the timing, extent, and magnitude of hurricane storm surge. This network was deployed by the Louisiana Water Science Center and TXWSC to areas of southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas in the hours preceding landfall of Hurricane Rita in September 20052.

Data from the storm surge sensors and related high-water mark data can be found in USGS Data Series 220.

Simulation of surge from Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005

Simulation of surge from Hurricane Rita on September 24, 2005, 3:00 a.m., using water-level and barometric-pressure data from sensors (Dean Gesch, USGS, 2006). (Public domain.)

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1 Watson, K.M., Harwell, G.R., Wallace, D.S., Welborn, T.L., Stengel, V.G., and McDowell, J.S., 2018, Characterization of peak streamflows and flood inundation of selected areas in southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana from the August and September 2017 flood resulting from Hurricane Harvey: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5070, 44 p.

2 McGee, B.D., Tollett, R.W., and Mason, Jr., R.R., 2006, Monitoring Inland Storm Surge and Flooding from Hurricane Rita: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2006-3136, 4 p.