RPS partnered with the University of Rhode Island and the US National Park Service (NPS) on an initiative to assess the vulnerability of three coastal NPS properties that experienced severe flooding associated with the landfall of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The approach focused on developing both high accuracy elevation data and new inundation models to evaluate storm surges under current and future conditions. The project resulted in a robust data infrastructure and technical procedures that will be used in preparing for and responding to future storms at these properties.
To evaluate the vulnerability of each park to flooding, RPS conducted model simulations of storm surge and resulting inundation at both landscape (park-wide) and site-specific scales. Using NOAA’ Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model, thousands of hurricane simulations were performed to examine the effect of slight changes in storm parameters on the extent of inundation and to understand locations in the parks where high-resolution modeling would be of value. Storm-induced flooding was simulated for each property to predict inundation associated with a 100-year return period event, under various sea level rise scenarios.
Storm Surge Inundation Modeling for National Parks in the Northeast United States
The National Park Service manages a number of iconic cultural and natural resources along the Northeast coast, including the Statute of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York Harbor, numerous sites within Gateway National Recreation Area (GATE), Fire Island National Seashore (FIIS), and Assateague Island National Seashore (ASIS). All of these locations experienced damaging coastal flooding during Hurricane Sandy, in part because geospatial data on flood risk inside the parks were not available. In the years following the event, the NPS has sought to develop tools and models that help identify vulnerable areas of these properties, allowing park managers to prioritize resources during pre-storm planning.
RPS developed a custom application using the ADvanced CIRCulation (ADCIRC) computer model, which was resolved to capture detailed coastal features such as inlets, marshes, and nearshore bars, and was updated with the best available elevation data including post-Sandy LiDAR and ground survey points at key park infrastructure.