A Category 4 hurricane could cause a storm surge of as muchas 25 feet in Tampa Bay, according to a University of Central Floridaresearcher who is looking at the risks Florida cities face from tidalsurges and flooding.
Scott Hagen, an associate professor of Civiland Environmental Engineering, and his team of graduate students havestarted analyzing the potential effects of a Category 4 hurricanestriking the Tampa Bay region. They ran their storm surge model withwind and pressure fields for hypothetical hurricanes with threedifferent paths and traveling at two different speeds, 5 and 15 mph.They concluded that such storms would produce surges of 20 to 25 feetin parts of Tampa Bay.
Hagen and the graduate students also planto study the potential effects of storm surges on Florida’s east coast,particularly Miami and Jacksonville. They are conducting this earlywork on their own initiative with a long-term goal of helping the statebecome better prepared for hurricanes.
“We’ll never have a floodup to our rooftops like New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean there won’tbe pockets of flooding in our cities that have the potential to causedrownings,” said Hagen, who is director of the Coastal HydroscienceAnalysis, Modeling and Predictive Simulations Laboratory, which isknown as the CHAMPS Lab.
Hagen said cities will have to balancetheir risks of storm surges with the costs of fortifying sea walls andlevees when they decide how much protection they want to add. They alsoneed to consider the gradually rising sea level, he said.
“Usually,we’ll say if we have a 99.5 percent confidence level that it’s notgoing to fail, we’re going to feel pretty good,” Hagen said. “We canlive with that year in and year out, but there’s still that one-halfpercent chance, and that’s what you saw in New Orleans.”
Theresearch team’s analysis of Tampa Bay showed the highest storm surges,about 25 feet, result from a hurricane moving at 15 mph with maximumwinds of 140 mph. While the maximum storm surge levels for a stormmoving at 5 mph were a few feet lower, the surge levels remained highfor much longer and therefore posed more serious risks.
Graduatestudents working with Hagen are Peter Bacopoulos of Daytona Beach,David Coggin of Orange Park, Yuji Funakoshi of Tokyo and Mike Salisburyof Fort Pierce.
In related efforts, Hagen and the students arepart of a program created to improve the national system forforecasting winds, waves and storm surges related to hurricanes. Thegoal of that project, funded by the National Oceanographic PartnershipProgram, is to generate real-time, probabilistic storm surge elevationsfor the United States’ East Coast and Gulf of Mexico based on potentialhurricane tracks. The results will help governments issue more accurateemergency advisories during storms. UCF’s partners in that effortinclude the universities of Miami and Florida, the U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/AtlanticOceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory Hurricane Research Divisionand Oceanweather Inc.
Hagen and his students also collaboratewith the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Peachtree City,Ga., on real-time forecasting for coastal rivers. The National Oceanicand Atmospheric Administration also is funding the CHAMPS Lab todevelop a real-time forecasting system for the St. Johns River.
More information about the CHAMPS Lab is available at http://champs.cecs.ucf.edu.
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