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Moderate flood level scenarios—Synthetic storm-driven flood-inundation maps for coastal communities in 10 New Jersey counties

May 25, 2023

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM), created digital flood-inundation maps for approximately 1,430 square miles of the New Jersey coast and tidewaters through 10 coastal counties stretching from Cumberland County through Bergen County, New Jersey. The maps depict extent and depth estimates of coastal flooding corresponding to selected tidal elevations recorded by 25 real-time USGS tide gages located within the study area. The flood-inundation maps can be accessed through the USGS Interagency Flood Risk Management (InFRM) Flood Decision Support Toolbox (FDST).

Previously published modeled data were utilized from the coupled ADvanced CIRCulation Model (ADCIRC) and Simulating Waves Nearshore (SWAN) model. Simulated tropical storm events were selected based on parameters including landfall location or closest approach location, maximum wind speed, central pressure, and radii of winds. Two storm events were selected per tide gage providing two “scenarios” and accompanying inundation-map libraries for each gage. Flood-inundation maps reflect between 9 to 30 stages (elevations) at each tide gage that correspond to areal extents and depths for ADCIRC-SWAN storm time steps extracted from modeled hydrographs at the gage locations. Water-surface elevations from ADCIRC-SWAN node points extending through each tide gage station extent were used to interpolate a water surface. Combining these surfaces with a geographic information system (GIS) topobathymetric digital elevation model (TBDEM) delineated the area flooded by coastal waters at each tide gage elevation.

The availability of these maps to visualize potential inundation for selected water levels along with real-time water level data available online from USGS tide gages, coastal impact statements, and forecasted tide elevations from the National Weather Service (NWS) will provide emergency management personnel and residents with a link between numeric and text warning information and images of estimated inundation extents in their community. User selected display of inundation allows early response activities to NWS forecasted water level elevations or mitigation planning by selecting targeted water levels and planning critical pre-flood activities such as building elevations, early traffic pattern changes because of neighborhood building inundation levels, improved understanding about when major road access is affected, as well as for post-flood recovery efforts.

A subsequent analysis of several community metrics including total structures, structure density, percent of buildings inundated, and roads and bridges affected by flooding was used to evaluate moderate flooding impacts among the mapped station extents. Initial comparisons are presented to show the variability of these characteristics within each mapped station extent then extended to evaluate impacts from moderate flooding on these same areas. The analysis used simulated inundation layers at the moderate flood stage to investigate the magnitude of inundation on building structures and major roads among the mapped station extents. Experimental equations were developed to begin testing if a mathematical equation could help identify communities that were disproportionately impacted at moderate flood stage. The community analysis of impacts to moderate flooding based on these inundation scenario maps should provide community leaders and local and state planning officials with tools to better visualize and understand how flooding begins to disrupt and damage building structures and major roads as a surrogate for direct increased risk to human life and property.

Publication Year 2023
Title Moderate flood level scenarios—Synthetic storm-driven flood-inundation maps for coastal communities in 10 New Jersey counties
DOI 10.3133/sir20235005
Authors Thomas P. Suro, Michal J. Niemoczynski, Anna Boetsma, Lukasz M. Niemoczynski
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2023-5005
Index ID sir20235005
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Jersey Water Science Center