Outer Banks Coastal Research – Hurricane Isabel

ambience Hurricane

Now a hurricane may seem like a disaster to the rest of us, but scientists see it as a unique opportunity to learn more about the dynamics of the coastline. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bill Birkemeier is director of the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

“Well, Hurricane Isabel was the strongest hurricane to affect this facility and the North Carolina coast since we’ve been here. It produced 25-foot waves, which is about six foot higher than any waves we’d measured previously. We had a storm surge that caused wave overtopping of our dune and material debris from structures and so forth to be pushed up to 22 foot above the still water line. This is an event unlike anything we’d seen before all in a period of less than 24 hours. And the results of that is there’s a lot of beach changes and a lot of interest in the prediction of storm surge that we hear about.”

Hurricane Isabel hit the Outer Banks in September of 2003. It’ll be remembered for its devastation, and for other reasons as well.

Isabel’s going to be one of the best studied hurricanes along the coast ever, because a number of agencies were active collecting data before it occurred, after it occurred. Isabel caused a breach of the barrier island. Basically, the barrier island was cut in a low area of the dunes. Water was flowing and the village of Cape Hatteras with 300 some people was separated from the rest of Hatteras Island.

“Eventually, that breach was closed. It took a couple of months, and we were able to get in there and look at the evolution of the breach, how deep the inlet became, how fast the waters flowed in there, and how it evolved as it was closed as well.”

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.

Outer Banks Coastal Research - Hurricane Isabel

One of the most severe storms to hit the Outer Banks left a legacy of devestation and data.
Air Date:08/21/2009
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience Hurricane

Now a hurricane may seem like a disaster to the rest of us, but scientists see it as a unique opportunity to learn more about the dynamics of the coastline. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Bill Birkemeier is director of the Army Corps of Engineers Field Research Facility on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

"Well, Hurricane Isabel was the strongest hurricane to affect this facility and the North Carolina coast since we’ve been here. It produced 25-foot waves, which is about six foot higher than any waves we’d measured previously. We had a storm surge that caused wave overtopping of our dune and material debris from structures and so forth to be pushed up to 22 foot above the still water line. This is an event unlike anything we’d seen before all in a period of less than 24 hours. And the results of that is there’s a lot of beach changes and a lot of interest in the prediction of storm surge that we hear about."

Hurricane Isabel hit the Outer Banks in September of 2003. It'll be remembered for its devastation, and for other reasons as well.

Isabel’s going to be one of the best studied hurricanes along the coast ever, because a number of agencies were active collecting data before it occurred, after it occurred. Isabel caused a breach of the barrier island. Basically, the barrier island was cut in a low area of the dunes. Water was flowing and the village of Cape Hatteras with 300 some people was separated from the rest of Hatteras Island.

“Eventually, that breach was closed. It took a couple of months, and we were able to get in there and look at the evolution of the breach, how deep the inlet became, how fast the waters flowed in there, and how it evolved as it was closed as well."

Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation.