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USGS Contact Information

For questions related to this site or to contribute content, please email TODD KOENIG or BOB HOLMES.

USGS Flood Information   

The USGS provides practical, unbiased information about the Nation's rivers and streams that is crucial in mitigating hazards associated with floods. This site provides information about the USGS activities, data, and services provided during regional high-flow events, such as hurricanes or multi-state flooding events. The USGS response to these events is typically managed by the National Floods Specialist.

  • USGS Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics (SWaTH) Network

image of USGS sensor installation

Scientific information, if reliably obtained and wisely applied, can strengthen our efforts to build resilient coastal communities before storms strike, and guide our response and recovery strategies. Past storms, such as Hurricane Sandy, have shown that storm surge and waves are the primary drivers of coastal-community destruction and dramatic changes in the coastal and near-coastal environment. The energy of the surge and accompanying waves cause physical changes to the landscape. The landward extent of the surge (storm tide) transports saline water, sediment, and debris to constructed and ecologically sensitive environments that are, otherwise, rarely impacted by direct ocean waters. As we develop more effective coastal-management approaches, we have the opportunity to build on our experience and knowledge to prepare for and minimize risks from future storms. Documenting the height, extent, and timing of storm surge and understanding how overland storm tide and waves evolve and dissipate when they move across natural and man-made landscapes, is critical for improved storm-surge modeling. That in turn, will promote coastal resilience, facilitate better planning, and provide more effective early warning of storm-driven flooding.

For decades the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has provided critical information on near-shore storm hydrodynamics for decisions regarding emergency response and resource allocation before, during, and immediately after landfall of hurricanes and nor’easters. Much of this information was provided via a few real-time tide gages focused on near-shore waters that supplemented and extended the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Ocean Service (NOS) tide-gage network. In addition, data from temporary sensors and high-water marks occasionally obtained by the USGS in cooperation with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and various state agencies, provided post-storm documentation of coastal floods; however, neither strategy provided sufficient, timely information for emergency operations or to facilitate improvements in storm-tide and wave modeling and prediction.

image of USGS sensor map

Following Hurricane Sandy, the USGS began construction of an overland Surge, Wave, and Tide Hydrodynamics (SWaTH) Network along the Northeastern Atlantic Coast from North Carolina to Maine (figure 1). This network, developed collaboratively with local, State, Tribal, and Federal agency partners, features the integration of long-term NOS and USGS real-time tide gages; mobile, rapidly deployable, but temporary, real-time gages (RDGs), and mobile storm-tide sensors (STSs). A central strategy enabling the effective use of SWaTH is that most locations for the mobile RDGs and STSs have been pre-surveyed to NGVD 1988 datums and equipped with receiving brackets that permits rapid installation of instrumentation in the hours and days prior to a storm.

SWaTH consists of 71 existing and new flood-hardened, real-time telemetered tide gages, 61 RDGs, and up to 555 temporary STSs. The STSs will be deployed in three distinct but integrated network configurations consisting of (1) a distributed array of stations representing the range of landscape types and infrastructure subject to surge and wave forces, (2) along transects from the coastline through the inland resource of concern (e.g. a wetland or coastal community), and (3) at existing tide and river monitoring stations where new data can be integrated with long-term records.

The transects will provide data for the analysis of wave height, frequency, and devolution as functions of distance inland. Associated meteorological data, supplemental high water marks, coastal river flow gages, coastal current monitoring, and other hydrologic data will provide ancillary information for interpreting changes in coastal hydrology and vulnerability of coastal ecosystems and communities in response to storm damage.

Delivering these data rapidly and in an easily accessible manner is critical to emergency agencies and local emergency responders. SWaTH data deliverables will include times series information for water elevation, wave height and frequency, and selected meteorological data. The system is being developed to enhance the data availability from historical hurricanes on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and agency preparedness for all future storm events. These data are stored in a nation-wide database and made available via a mapping application and direct web services. These services are structured to allow other agencies to directly use the data as it is collected and approved during, or shortly following, a flood event. Stay tuned for a workshop at the NHWC conference about how to use these new data services from the USGS.

SWaTH News

sensor photo USGS Newsroom: North Carolina Storm-Tide Sensor Network Strengthened

Vital coastal storm-tide information needed to help guide storm response efforts following major storms affecting North Carolina will be more accessible than ever due to a new monitoring network the U.S. Geological Survey is currently building. (click to read more...)

Related Publications

OF 2013-1043, Monitoring Storm Tide and Flooding from Hurricane Sandy Along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, October 2012 by McCallum, B.E., Wicklein, S.M., Reiser, R.G., Busciolano, Ronald, Morrison, Jonathan, Verdi, R.J., Painter, J.A., Frantz, E.R., and Gotvald, A.J.

OF 2012-1263, Monitoring Storm Tide and Flooding from Hurricane Isaac along the Gulf Coast of the United States, August 2012 by Brian E. McCallum, Benton D. McGee, Dustin R. Kimbrow, Michael S. Runner, Jaime A. Painter, Eric R. Frantz, and Anthony J. Gotvald

OF 2012-1022, Monitoring Inland Storm Tide and Flooding from Hurricane Irene along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, August 2011 by Brian E. McCallum, Jaime A. Painter, and Eric R. Frantz

OF 2008-1373, Monitoring Inland Storm Surge and Flooding From Hurricane Gustav in Louisiana, September 2008

OF 2008-1365, Monitoring Inland Storm Surge and Flooding from Hurricane Ike in Texas and Louisiana, September 2008

Data Series 294, Monitoring the Storm Tide of Hurricane Wilma in Southwestern Florida, October 2005, by L.E. Soderquist and M.J. Byrne, 2007

Data Series 220, Hurricane Rita Surge Data, Southwestern Louisiana and Southeastern Texas, September to November 2005, By Benton D. McGee, Burl B. Goree, Roland W. Tollett, Brenda K. Woodward, and Wade H. Kress

Monitoring Hurricane Wilma's Storm Surge by Michael Byrne, in Soundwaves: Coastal Science and Research News from Across the USGS, 2006

Mapping Hurricane Rita Inland Storm Tide by Charles Berenbrock, Robert R. Mason, Jr., and Stephen F. Blanchard, 2008

FS-06-3136, Monitoring Inland Storm Surge and Flooding from Hurricane Rita by Benton D. McGee, Roland W. Tollett, and Robert R. Mason, Jr.

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