USGS Hurricane Preparedness
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. https://www.usgs.gov/hurricanes
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When a hurricane approaches, dozens of USGS employees embark to place storm surge sensors, often installing more than one hundred per storm, along its projected path. They create what is referred to as a mobile network, that provides data on a vast geographic scale and gathers information that scientists can use to create complex computer models of past, current and future storms that help predict the impacts they will have.
Storm surge is one of the most dangerous and damaging aspects of hurricanes. While this phenomenon is well understood in the open ocean, the data that these sensors provide is integral to increasing our knowledge about inland effects. These sensors record wave height and sea level at intervals up to 4 times a second throughout the storm. This frame by frame insight provides USGS Scientists with valuable data about the intensity of the storm surge, potential for coastal erosion, and predictions regarding Tidal-surge related flooding.
What is unique about this effort is that as the path of the storm changes the sensors can be moved to ensure that critical data is collected. Additionally, the locations for these sensors are strategically chosen to represent a variety of settings. Some are placed under boardwalks, others inland near homes, and a few make even make it into trees.
This data is being used by policy makers, and our partners at agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the National Weather Service and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to increase our Nation's preparedness for extreme weather events. This data can help first responders rescue people in need and provide preemptive information on what could be the worst hit areas. The more we understand these systems, the more prepared are. The USGS will continue to innovate and collect data integral to the future and safety of our great nation. We are Earth Science in the public service.