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Scientists Map Florida Panhandle's First Line of Defense
Web Site Forecasts Inundation from Dennis on Coast

Released: 7/9/2005 3:00:00 PM

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Diane Noserale 1-click interview
Phone: 571-228-6582(cell)

Carolyn Bell 1-click interview
Phone: 703-472-3935(cell)

Note to Reporters: Asbury (Abby) H. Sallenger, Jr., a USGS oceanographer, can be reached by calling 727-803-8747 x3015 or by emailing him at: asallenger@usgs.gov.

With the approach of Hurricane Dennis, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) are looking at the section of beach most likely to take the brunt of the storm’s fury. In what has become a pre-storm tradition, USGS scientists take to the air to acquire a baseline map of sand dunes and barrier islands that make up the first line of defense against storm surge. These pre-storm surveys, combined with meteorological forecasts allow USGS scientists to forecast coastal inundation from storm surge using a new coastal impact scale they developed. They post the results at: http://coastal.er.usgs.gov/hurricanes.

In cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, USGS mapped topography of the dunes and the bathymetry offshore along much of the Florida Panhandle using an airplane equipped with lidar – a laser system that can map large areas very quickly and accurately. If weather permits, USGS scientists will use a second aircraft to acquire oblique still photos and video of the shore.

According to USGS scientist Asbury Sallenger, Jr. who leads the project and developed the coastal impact scale, the impact of a storm on a barrier island is dependent not only on the storm’s characteristics, such as storm surge and waves, but also on the elevation of the barrier island at landfall. By considering the elevation of hurricane-induced sea level relative to coastal elevation, areas of potential inundation can be identified. After the storm moves inland, USGS will resurvey the coast with both aircraft. By comparing pre- and post- storm surveys, scientists will be able to measure coastal change caused by Hurricane Dennis.


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