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Engineers and Scientists Record Dangerous Floods and Storm Surge in Wake of Hurricane Georges
Released: 10/20/1998

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Teresa Embry (Tallahasee, FL) 1-click interview
Phone: 850-942-9500 x3019

High waters, contributing to coastal and property damages from Hurricane Georges, have prompted engineers and scientists to record the magnitude of floods and storm surge along the Gulf Coast of the United States. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)are collecting and analyzing the data from the slow-moving storm which made landfall as a category 2 hurricane near Biloxi, Mississippi, on September 28. Because every coastal area, river, and stream from Mississippi to the Florida panhandle experienced serious life-threatening flooding, this information is critical to emergency management officials who must be prepared to respond to future severe weather situations.

Hydrologic effects of hurricanes and tropical systems are studied by sending field personnel to find, mark, and survey the evidence of elevations of high water during and after major storms. Record flood stages of 20.4 feet occurred at Flomaton, Alabama, on the Escambia River; 21.4 feet at Crestview, Florida, on the Shoal River; and 25.57 feet at Baker, Florida, on the Blackwater River. Storm surge was 9.6 feet in Pascagoula, Mississippi, at Bayou Chico, which was struck by the dangerous northeast quadrant of the hurricane. Surges of 8.8 feet above mean sea level in Biloxi, Mississippi; 8.0 feet in Mobile Bay and 8.5 in downtown Mobile, Alabama; and 7.7 at Pensacola, Beach, Florida, were recorded.

Storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level that accompanies a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the storm. Storm surge and wave height combine to inundate coastal areas. Ongoing studies of storm surge are conducted by the USACE and USGS to understand beach erosion and improve our ability to predict both long- and short-term coastal ero sion and future inundation.

More lives are lost to floods and storm surge during and after a hurricane than from high winds. Real-time stage and discharge data provided by the USGS on the web allows immediate access to water information during storms. The URL for USGS real-time data is: http://water.usgs.gov/realtime.html. The USACE web page contains a brief history of Georges with rainfall and storm surge data and includes color photographs of the damages caused by flooding and storm surge. The URL for the USACE is: http://www.sam.usace.army.mil/georges.html. The potential danger to coastal residents and property is shown in the USGS video "Exploring Storm Surge," by Anne Tihansky and Dan Duerr. Copies of the video can be obtained from U.S. Geological Survey Information Services, Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225 (303) 202-4693.

For more than two centuries, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has provided comprehensive engineering, management, and technical support to the Nation in peace and war. As part of its Civil Works mission, the Corps plans, designs, builds, and often operate and maintain projects that provide river and harbor navigation, flood control, water supply, hydroelectric power, environmental restoration, wildlife protection, and recreation. The Corps protects the Nation’s waterways and wetlands, and undertakes disaster relief and recovery work during times of National disaster.

This press release may be found on the USACE home page at: http://www.hq.usace.army.mil/cepa/newsrel.htm.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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