USGS Installs Storm-Tide Sensors in Preparation for Hermine’s Arrival

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USGS teams install storm-tide sensors in Florida before Hurricane Hermine makes landfall

As Hurricane Hermine bears down on Florida’s Gulf Coast, U.S. Geological Survey hurricane response crews in Florida installed five storm-tide sensors that will help document the storm surges along the state’s coastline.

In cooperation with the National Weather Service, 10 USGS hydrologists and technicians installed these sensors along the Florida coast, from Apalachicola to Cedar Key. These storm-tide sensors serve as data collection points to measure how high storm surges get during severe storms. The sensors - which are housed inside vented steel pipes normally about a foot long – are installed on bridges, piers and other solid structures that can withstand the heavy wind and waves tropical storms and hurricanes produce.

Using barometric and water pressure, the sensors take readings at 30-second intervals to determine the height of storm surges, as well as the duration of a storm-surge from when it arrives, until it retreats. After the storm has passed USGS crews will go back into the field to gather the sensors and the data they recorded.

This information has a variety of uses such as helping public officials assess storm damage, discern between wind and flood damage, and improving the accuracy of computer models that are used for future flood forecasting.

In most circumstances, USGS crews would install these storm-tide sensors days before a storm is set to make landfall, however, this deployment was different.

This short notice deployment was undertaken because of increases to the projected storm surge, and also because the National Hurricane Center requested additional information to assist with future storm surge modeling. However, because of the late deployment, the USGS did focus on a small, targeted deployment, which the Florida team was able to safely complete.

Since the track of Hurricane Hermine has a potential to change, USGS teams across the Eastern seaboard are ready to deploy into the field if necessary to install extra storm tide-sensors, conduct discharge measurements on rivers and streams, and install Rapid Deployment Gauges to supplement any existing USGS streamgages that could be damaged from the wind and rain Hurricane Hermine might bring.

While the storm-tide sensors might be small – only a few inches long – the data they collect is very important. The USGS and other state and federal agencies will use the sensor logs to better understand the impacts hurricanes and tropical storms have on coastal areas. This knowledge also improves future storm predication accuracy, and gives emergency managers the information they need to enhance emergency response times and pick safe evacuation routes.

The USGS, in cooperation with state and federal agencies, also operates more permanent sensor networks installed across the United States. These networks provide real-time data important to the National Weather Service, FEMA and other USGS partners involved in issuing flood and evacuation warnings and in coordinating emergency responses to communities.

For information on hurricane preparedness or tips on creating emergency plans or kits, visit www.ready.gov or www.listo.gov.