Because coastal areas in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts were heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), under a mission agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, collected storm tide high-water marks in those coastal areas. This effort was undertaken to better understand the areal extent and impact of storm tides resulting from strong storms.
On October 27–29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy moved up the eastern coast of the United States after passing over the Bahamas. On October 29 at about 7:30 p.m. eastern daylight time, Hurricane Sandy made landfall its final time near Brigantine, New Jersey, with recorded wind speeds of about 80 miles per hour. The damages from Hurricane Sandy exceeded $50 billion in total, making it the second most costly Atlantic hurricane at that time, second only to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane Sandy also resulted in 147 deaths, and about 650,000 homes and many businesses being damaged along the eastern coast of the United States. The severity of Hurricane Sandy’s effects resulted in presidential disaster declarations being declared in 10 States from Virginia to Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in the months following Hurricane Sandy; the list of States affected included Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.
In response to the approach of Hurricane Sandy, the USGS deployed 60 temporary storm tide sensors and 2 temporary real-time rapid deployment gages to collect tide elevation data during the storm along the coastal areas of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. This activity was done from Virginia to Maine before the storm. Following Hurricane Sandy, in October and November 2012, 371 storm tide high-water marks were identified and flagged in the coastal areas of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. High-water marks near USGS temporary storm tide sensors, real-time rapid deployment gages, and streamgages affected by the tides as well as high-water marks on Block Island, R.I., and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Mass., were surveyed at the same time the high-water marks were identified and flagged in October and November 2012. The remaining high-water marks flagged during October and November 2012 were surveyed from December 2013 through June 2014 and in December 2016. Elevations of all high-water marks were referenced to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 and horizontal coordinates to the North American Datum of 1983 using the Global Navigation Satellite System, survey-grade Digital Global Positioning System receivers, and total station surveying equipment.
Of the 371 storm tide high-water marks flagged following Hurricane Sandy, only 364 high-water marks were surveyed; the remaining 7 could not be found or had been destroyed when locations were revisited to conduct surveys. The 157 high-water marks surveyed in Connecticut had elevations that ranged from 2.5 to 12.2 feet (ft) with an average elevation of 8.1 ft and a median elevation of 8.3 ft. The 76 high-water marks in Rhode Island had elevations that ranged from 3.6 to 16.2 ft and averaged 7.1 ft with a median of 6.6 ft. The 131 high-water marks in Massachusetts had elevations that ranged from 2.8 to 22.7 ft and averaged 7.3 ft with a median of 6.6 ft. Individual information on the location, type, accuracy, and elevation of the 371 high-water marks can be found in an accompanying USGS data release and at the USGS Flood Event Viewer website for Hurricane Sandy (https://stn.wim.usgs.gov/fev/#Sandy).
The high-water marks along the coast line of Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts, including Nantucket, generally had higher storm tide elevations than the coast line of Rhode Island including Block Island and southern Massachusetts, including Martha’s Vineyard. The high-water mark elevations compare well with recorded peak-storm tide data at USGS temporary storm tide sensors and real-time rapid deployment gages deployed for Hurricane Sandy in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.
High-water mark data collected following Hurricane Sandy will be used by Federal, State, and local government agencies, nongovernmental organizations, universities, and the public for better understanding the areal extent and impact of the storm tides. Additionally, these data can be used for such activities as land-use planning, flood risk studies, flood resiliency studies, and coastal modeling. These data from this historic storm can be compared with other regional hurricanes and tropical storms for planning into the future.
|Title||High-water marks from Hurricane Sandy for coastal areas of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, October 2012|
|Authors||Lance J. Ostiguy, Timothy C. Sargent, Brittney Izbicki, Gardner C. Bent|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Data Series|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||New England Water Science Center|