USGS Water Science Centers are located in each state.
Florida Hurricane Information
Preventing flood hazards, such as hurricane-induced tidal surge, from becoming human disasters requires an understanding of the relative risks floods pose to specific communities and knowledge of the processes by which flood waters rise, converge, and abate. Historically, hurricane-induced tidal surge has been documented through measurement of high-water marks left on structures or vegetation. These remnant signals are not always reliable or accurate, however, and do not provide quantitative information about the timing of flooding, the sequencing of multiple paths by which storm-surge waters arrive, or the magnitude of waves.
To gain better knowledge about the effects of hurricanes, the U.S. Geological Survey Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center (USGS-CFWSC), in cooperation with municipal, State, and Federal agencies, uses two monitoring approaches to measure the timing, magnitude, and duration of hurricane tidal surge. The first approach uses the existing fixed network of gages that provide "real-time" data on water levels, and the second uses tidal-surge sensors that are temporarily-deployed in advance of hurricanes.
Real-Time Monitoring Network
Barometric-pressure sensor deployed at WS_19 Imperial River.
The USGS maintains a network of 95 real-time gaging stations along the Florida coast. Seventy-seven of those sites are located along the Gulf Coast and 18 along the Atlantic. These stations record data at 15-minute intervals that are available on the web at fl.water.usgs.gov, and include measurements of water level, velocity, specific conductance, salinity, temperature, turbidity, pH, chlorophyll, blue green algae and dissolved oxygen. The real-time network monitors a large range of hydrologic conditions, from droughts to floods, and provides the data on the web for a broad base of stakeholders. In the event of a hurricane, the real-time network allows individuals to monitor the storm-surge data in near real time (maximum 1-hour delay). Depending on the elevation of the gage-house structure, real-time gages may be at risk of being inundated by flood waters during extreme storm surges.
Temporary Deployment of Hurricane Storm Surge Sensors
Water-level sensor deployed at WS_26A Marco Island Bayside.
To augment the real-time gaging network, a temporary network of more than 80 hurricane storm-surge sensors can be deployed prior to a hurricane that record data at 30-second intervals. As part of this monitoring approach, water-level and barometric-pressure sensors are deployed to areas of projected hurricane landfall. The addition of these sensors creates a concentrated network of storm-surge monitors that provide more spatially-dense information on hurricane tidal surge. For example, temporary deployment of sensors in the projected hurricane path can be placed to monitor the escalation and attenuation of the hurricane storm surge along coastal rivers and across barrier islands, low-lying areas, and wetlands. After the passing of a storm the locations of the temporarily-deployed sensors must be surveyed to a known elevation. The USGS has successfully deployed temporary tidal surge-networks for Hurricanes Rita (2005), Wilma (2005), Gustav (2008), Ike (2008), Irene (2011), and Tropical Storm Ernesto (2006).
The use of existing fixed network stations along with temporarily-deployed water-level and barometric pressure sensors provides a cost-effective hurricane storm-surge monitoring network for Florida. The combined networks effectively leverage resources of over 10 cooperative funding agencies in Florida to monitor hurricane storm surge. The data are a valuable resource for emergency preparedness agencies to better protect public safety, for engineers to improve structural design of coastal infrastructures, and for oceanographers to evaluate and improve hurricane storm-surge computer models.
CFWSC had been responding to the rains and flooding being forecast by ensuring that USGS real-time gages are operational and providing critical information on river stage and rainfall to the public, National Weather Service, and emergency management officials. In addition, USGS will deploy staff to make streamflow measurements at streamgages across the state to verify and update the river stage and streamflow discharge ratings. These ratings are critical for determining the volume of water that passes a streamgaging station at any given river stage and are used in issuing flood warnings, mapping floodplains, monitoring water-quality and environmental conditions, and managing water resources
Hurricane Matthew - USGS Recovers Storm Tide Sensors
It wiped out all of this. You can definitely see where the water stopped here because it’s a defined line.
Man #1 – Voice-over:
Saltwater stopped just feet from these homes next to the Beach Boulevard Bridge. Luckily residents were relieved to find the water didn’t flood their homes. These rack lines show where the water stopped. Channelside resident Mark Wilkinson sweeps away debris pushed up by the water.
You see every hour on the hour a city vehicle or a cop or somebody come and check that particular point and we know at high tide that tends to be the spot that is the lowest… and we’re not that much higher than that and it was time to go.
It’s been less than 36 hours since Hurricane Matthew scraped our coastline. I’m out in the field with a team from the U.S. Geological Survey and what we’re doing is we’re actually surveying how high the water reached along our coastline.
Man #1 – Voice-over:
Teams of USGS hydrologists anchored hundreds of sensors from Florida to Virginia. This pressure transducer records the timing, the extent and magnitude of overland storm tide under the Beach Boulevard Bridge. Over a dozen more were distributed from Camden County to Flagler to capture the surge. During the worst of Hurricane Matthew, WJXT’s weather authority used real-time data streaming from a rapid deployment gage at the Vilano fishing pier to let viewers know the surge peaked at 7 feet. Fernadina Beach was nearly as high peaking at 6.91 feet. Mayport crested at 5.2 feet marking the highest water-level since the 1898 hurricane. Matthews surge is higher than 1964 when Hurricane Dora hit. The data will improve storm tide forecasts for future events.
Title: Hurricane Matthew - USGS Installs Storm-Tide Sensors.
Date: October 12, 2016
Credits: Mark Collins - Meteorologist for News4JAX