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How construction affects storm surge

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Posted: Monday, April 22, 2013 5:35 pm

Multiple factors can increase the risk that a storm surge could have a stronger impact on some sections of the bay while others are left relatively unscathed, said Thomas Herrington, a coastal engineering professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken.

The storm’s dynamics, including wind speed and wind direction, play a critical role, as do human engineering and construction.

For example, if a channel has been dredged for navigation, the depth of that channel on the bay creates an easier path for storm-driven surges to rush up into the bay and increase the height of floodwaters, Herrington said.

Then there is how the floodwaters interact with hard surfaces such as bulkheads, which can enhance the slapping and sloshing of wind-driven waves on houses and other waterfront property, Herrington said.

Partnership for the Delaware Estuary scientist Danielle Kreeger points to a pilot project near the Bivalve section of Commercial Township in Cumberland County as an example of how the natural environment fared better during Hurricane Sandy than the built-up environment.

The project, which used coconut husk “logs” and native ribbed mussels as a base, helped expand and stabilize a section of highly eroded wetland bank near a marina at Matts Landing on the Maurice River. Damage to the marina’s docks and hard-surface areas along the water was significant, Kreeger said, but the area by the restored shoreline was seemingly untouched.

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