Sea Grant's quick response gives managers information needed to better manage impacts of Hurricane Sandy

Date: 

2012

Summary: 

When "super storm" Sandy opened a new inlet on the south shore of Long Island, threatening developed areas, the National Park Service requested New York Sea Grant's coastal processes specialist to assist their inter-agency Breach Assessment Team, composed of 35 federal, state and local officials, in evaluating the situation and managing the feature. The specialist provided the group with information on potential breach impacts and worked with university researchers to develop a monitoring program that would provide information needed to properly manage the breach.

Issue: 

Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey, inflicting tremendous damage along the coast. The force of the storm’s waves and surge opened several breaches through the barrier islands protecting Long Island’s south shore. A breach in the Fire Island National Shore in a federal wilderness area was of particular concern to managers. The breach was in a barrier fronting a portion of the mainland containing 13,000 homes valued at $10 billion. Federal and state policies required monitoring the breach and its impacts for 45 to 60 days to determine whether it posed a threat to the mainland and should be artificially closed or allowed to close naturally.

Response: 

The National Park Service, which was responsible for making the decision regarding closure, asked NYSG’s Coastal Processes Specialist to assist their inter-agency Breach Assessment Team. NYSG provided the group with research-based information on impacts of new breaches from earlier NYSG efforts and helped them identify data needed to properly evaluate the situation. NYSG worked with researchers at Stony Brook University to identify ongoing field projects that provided some of the needed data, synthesizing and disseminating it to the assessment team within two weeks of the storm. NYSG coordinated with researchers and managers to develop and fund a quick response project to collect critical real-time data on physical changes associated with the breach when it became apparent other agencies were able to respond in a timely manner.

Impact: 

NPS used NYSG information to evaluate the condition of the breach and its impacts and decided not to close it immediately, which would have cost $6 million, since the initial data showed the feature was fairly stable and having minimal impacts on tide levels.

Submitted by: 

  • Tanski, Joseph J

Researchers involved: 

  • Tanski, Joseph J

Organizations involved: 

  • Stony Brook University
  • National Park Service

International focus: 

  • United States of America

United States focus: 

  • New York

New York State focus: 

  • Nassau
  • Suffolk