NOAA Post-Sandy Operations Continuing, November 9, 2012

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 9, 2012. 

satellite image of Hurricane Sandy

This NOAA GOES-13 satellite image, taken on Oct. 29, 2012, shows Hurricane Sandy centered off of Maryland and Virginia.

NOAA continues to work in partnership with other federal, state, and local partners in response to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. NOAA’s efforts are focused on navigation surveys to restore maritime commerce; aerial surveys to assist in those efforts and to aid on-the-ground responders from FEMA and local authorities; and in oil spill cleanup and damage assessment.  NOAA’s National Weather Service is also keeping authorities aware of changing weather conditions that could impact recovery and response efforts.

Coast Survey

NOAA’s hydrographic survey vessels, including two three-person navigation response teams  (NRTs) and the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with her two survey launches, have completed surveys of the Port of New York and New Jersey. Working over the past five days, the high-tech vessels searched approximately 20 square nautical miles of shipping lanes, channels, and terminals to search for  dangers to navigation.

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Maritime Transportation System Recovery Unit, NOAA surveyors provided near-real time updates on underwater object detection (including debris and shipping containers) that allowed the USCG Captain of the Port to make decisions on  port status. (Note: Follow the status of port conditions at U.S. Coast Guard Digital News.)

In addition to aiding in the gradual reopening of the New York City-area port to shipping, including special emergency deliveries of needed petroleum fuels products, NOAA navigation survey response teams also provided valuable data to allow for: the reopening of the Port of Hampton Roads, home of the largest Naval base in the world and one of the nation’s leading ports for the shipping of coal; the reopening of the ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia; and the resumption of the ferry that connects Lewes, Del., and Cape May, N.J.—an important access route to bring aid to stricken New Jersey and Delaware shore communities.

While NOAA’s navigation assets have completed their primary assignments, they remain available to continue to assist the USCG as needed, and will be conducting additional surveys in smaller navigational areas of South Jersey and Delaware in coming days.

The NRTs’ work helps speed the re-opening of ports and waterways, allowing the flow of relief supplies, and enabling the resumption of ocean commerce—valued at more than $1 trillion annually to the nation’s economy—to resume.

NOAA hydrographers and survey technicians will continue to process the billions of points of data collected by the five NOAA vessels since Sandy response operations began on Oct. 30 at the Port of New York and New Jersey. While initial assessments are based off of on-scene observations, additional image processing may reveal further details.

Once processed, Sandy response hydrographic data collected by all NOAA survey vessels in N.Y., N.J., Delaware Bay, and Chesapeake Bay will be available from the National Geophysical Data Center. This data is valuable for contemporary use—but also for reference if NOAA vessels need to re-survey the same areas in future years.

Damage Assessment Imagery

NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey’s remote sensing program has concluded capturing aerial photographic surveys of the battered coast. Thousands of photos have been collected to date, most of which are available online. Crews flying in NOAA’s King Air turboprop and Twin Otter aircraft surveyed over 1,649 miles of coastline to document coastal damage and impacts to navigation. 

The data contained in these photos provide emergency and coastal managers with the information they need to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search-and-rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation necessary for damage assessment through the comparison of before-and-after imagery.

To date, FEMA has used the NOAA-supplied photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to determine damage to some 35,000 homes.

Pollution Response

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration is providing scientific support to the USCG in responding to a significant spill at the Motiva Refinery in Sewarren, N.J., as well as support for cleanup and assessment of several small spills scattered throughout northern New Jersey’s refinery areas. NOAA will also be looking at impacted natural resources after the spills are contained for possible natural resource damage assessment claims and restorations.

Ongoing NOAA Weather Support

While the immediate focus to Sandy has been on response, NOAA’s National Weather Service is keeping a close eye on weather that might impact response and cleanup operations.