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October 7, 2020

To learn more about USGS’s role in providing science to decision-makers before, during and after Hurricane Delta, visit the USGS Hurricane Delta page at  

 A USGS employee standing in knee deep water attaches a metal cylinder containing a storm tide sensor to a pier.
Taylor Kirkpatrick deploying a storm tide sensor October 6 in Santa Rosa County, Florida to monitor water levels likely to be affected by Hurricane Delta. Photo by Rob Clendening, USGS.

Hurricane Delta is forecast to cause life-threatening storm surge and extensive coastal change along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana, and U.S. Geological Survey scientists are quickly installing 30 storm tide sensors to measure the intense waves and storm surge Delta will generate.

Scientists can use information gathered by the sensors to fine-tune future storm surge and coastal change forecasts. The sensor data can also be used to guide recovery efforts, plan evacuation routes, identify areas hardest hit by storm surge and improve structure designs to increase public safety.

Field crews from the USGS Lower Mississippi Gulf Water Science Center and Wetland and Aquatic Research Center are installing 24 storm tide sensors from the Texas-Louisiana border along the coast to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Crews from the USGS Caribbean and Florida Water Science Center are installing 6 storm tide sensors from Pensacola Beach to Panama City, Florida. The work is expected to be completed late October 7. USGS storm tide sensors provide essential surge and wave data that local, state and federal officials can use to help protect lives and property.

Storm tides are increases in ocean water levels caused by coastal storms and include storm- generated surge plus changes caused by local tides. Storm tides are among the most dangerous natural hazards unleashed by hurricanes. They can destroy homes and businesses; wipe out roads, bridges, water and sewer systems; and profoundly alter coastal landscapes. The storm tide sensors being installed collect data that will help define the depth and duration of Delta’s surge and the time of its arrival and departure.

USGS scientists are also activating two seasonal rapid deployment gauges in Panama City and Destin, Florida to monitor potential flooding from Delta. These rapid deployment gauges will monitor locations that may be impacted by floodwaters. They provide real-time information to the National Weather Service, FEMA and other USGS partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings and coordinating emergency responses.

The storm tide sensors are housed in vented steel pipes a few inches wide and about a foot long. They are being installed on bridges, piers, and other structures that have a good chance of surviving the storm. Information on the storm tide sensor deployment and the incoming data will be available on the USGS Flood Event Viewer.

As the USGS continues to take all appropriate preparedness actions in response to Hurricane Delta, those ­­­in the storm’s projected path can visit or for tips on creating emergency plans and putting together an emergency supply kit.

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