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Circular 1390

Meeting the Science Needs of the Nation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy—A U.S. Geological Survey Science Plan for Support of Restoration and Recovery

By Herbert T. Buxton, Matthew E. Andersen, Michael J. Focazio, John W. Haines, Robert A. Hainly, Daniel J. Hippe, and Larry J. Sugarbaker

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (61.4 MB)Executive Summary

In late October 2012, Hurricane Sandy came ashore during a spring high tide on the New Jersey coastline, delivering hurricane-force winds, storm tides exceeding 19 feet, driving rain, and plummeting temperatures. Hurricane Sandy resulted in 72 direct fatalities in the mid-Atlantic and northeastern United States, and widespread and substantial physical, environmental, ecological, social, and economic impacts estimated at near $50 billion. Before the landfall of Hurricane Sandy, the USGS provided forecasts of potential coastal change; collected oblique aerial photography of pre-storm coastal morphology; deployed storm-surge sensors, rapid-deployment streamgages, wave sensors, and barometric pressure sensors; conducted Light Detection And Ranging (lidar) aerial topographic surveys of coastal areas; and issued a landslide alert for landslide prone areas. During the storm, Tidal Telemetry Networks provided real-time water-level information along the coast. Long-term network and rapid-deployment real-time streamgages and water-quality monitors reported on river levels and changes in water quality. Immediately after the storm, the USGS serviced real-time instrumentation, retrieved data from over 140 storm-surge sensors, and collected other essential environmental data, including more than 830 high-water marks mapping the extent and elevation of the storm surge. Post-storm lidar surveys documented storm impacts to coastal barriers informing response and recovery and providing a new baseline to assess vulnerability of the reconfigured coast. The USGS Hazard Data Distribution System served storm related information from many agencies on the Internet on a daily basis.

This science plan was developed immediately following Hurricane Sandy to coordinate continuing USGS activities with other agencies and to guide continued data collection and analysis to ensure support for recovery and restoration efforts. The data, information, and tools that are produced by implementing this plan will: (1) further characterize impacts and changes, (2) guide mitigation and restoration of impacted communities and ecosystems, (3) inform a redevelopment strategy aimed at developing resilient coastal communities and ecosystems, (4) improve preparedness and responsiveness to the next hurricane or similar coastal disaster, and (5) enable improved hazard assessment, response, and recovery for future storms along the hurricane prone shoreline of the United States.

The activities outlined in this plan are organized in five themes based on impact types and information needs. These USGS science themes are:
Theme 1: Coastal topography and bathymetry.
Theme 2: Impacts to coastal beaches and barriers.
Theme 3: Impacts of storm surge and estuarine and bay hydrology.
Theme 4: Impacts on environmental quality and persisting contaminant exposures.
Theme 5: Impacts to coastal ecosystems, habitats, and fish and wildlife.

A major emphasis in the implementation of this plan will be on interacting with stakeholders to better understand their specific data and information needs, to define the best way to make information available, and to support applications of USGS science and expertise to decisionmaking.

First posted July 1, 2013

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For additional information contact:
Natural Hazards Mission Area
U.S. Geological Survey
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

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Suggested citation:

Buxton, H.T., Andersen, M.E., Focazio, M.J., Haines, J.W., Hainly, R.A., Hippe, D.J., and Sugarbaker, L.J., 2013, Meeting the science needs of the Nation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy—A U.S. Geological Survey science plan for support of restoration and recovery: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1390, 26 p.,



Executive Summary


USGS Hurricane Sandy Science Plan

Stakeholder Coordination and Communication

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