USGS Deploying Sensors in Carolinas to Monitor Hurricane Isaias

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

Video Transcript

Watch this video to learn what USGS storm tide sensors are and what they do. Video by Jacob Massey, Office of Communications and Publishing. (Public domain.)

As forecasts show Hurricane Isaias has the potential to cause flooding and erosion along North and South Carolina coasts, U.S. Geological Survey scientists are quickly installing about 54 storm-tide sensors and two rapid-deployment gauges to track Isaias’s effects in the Carolinas. 

USGS field crews are installing 14 storm-tide sensors in South Carolina and 40 storm-tide sensors in North Carolina. The two rapid deployment gauges will be installed in New Bern and Swansboro, North Carolina, to monitor inland river flooding in real time. USGS storm-tide sensors and rapid deployment gauges record essential information that local, state, and federal officials can use to help protect lives and property.

USGS offices from Virginia through Maine are currently monitoring Isaias for the possibility of inland flooding and are ready to measure floodwaters if needed. 

Storm tides are increases in ocean water levels caused by extreme storms and include the storm generated surge plus changes to water levels from local tide cycles. 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. 

USGS storm-tide sensors collect data that help define the depth and duration of the storm’s surge and the time of its arrival and retreat. This information is used to fine-tune future storm surge and coastal change forecasts and can be used to guide recovery efforts, plan evacuation routes, identify areas hardest hit by storm surge, and improve structure designs to increase public safety.

The sensors being installed to measure Hurricane Isaias’ storm tide 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

The two rapid deployment gauges being installed in North Carolina will monitor critical locations that may be impacted by floodwaters, but where the USGS does not have permanent streamgages. These specialized gauges can be quickly installed to provide real-time information on water levels. They will augment a network of 283 permanent USGS streamgages in North Carolina that provide critical information to the National Weather Service, FEMA, and other USGS partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings and coordinating emergency responses.

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