NOAA Surveys Ports and Channels for Sandy's Dangers

NOAA survey vessels searching for dangers to navigation in Sandy's wake

NOAA Office of Coast Survey navigation response teams and other survey assets are in the water, as they begin checking for underwater debris and shoaling that may pose a risk to navigation. Tasked by the U.S. Coast Guard Captains of the Port, these vessels can use multibeam echo sounders or side scan sonar, as conditions warrant, to search for the answers that would speed resumption of shipping and other vessel movements.

As of noon yesterday (10/31):

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson started out for New York Harbor, where they will survey for obstructions in waterways, starting a daybreak tomorrow. Visual reconnaissance indicates debris and missing containers may pose a danger to shipping.

Navigation Response Team 5 mobilized from Connecticut and got underway in New York at first light, surveying Anchorage Channel. Their next priorities are the route up to the Manhattan cruise ship terminal, Sandy Hook Channel, and then the Global Marine Terminal.

NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler spent time surveying deep draft ship channels in Chesapeake Channel and Thimble Shoal Channel, as 78 large vessels, including portions of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet, waited to transit through the entrance to Chesapeake Bay.

NOAA R/V  Bay Hydro II is surveying in the Hampton Roads area, checking channels needed by coal shipments and aircraft carriers at Norfolk.

Navigation Response Team 2 is on its way from their regularly scheduled surveying off Florida's coast, headed to help out in NY/NJ. Additionally, an operations manager is transporting mobile survey equipment to New York, as an additional survey resource on a vessel of opportunity.

NOAA R/V Potawaugh mobilized to Lewes, Del., to survey for shoaling that may pose a risk to safe navigation for the Cape May - Lewes Ferry and other vessels. They started surveying, using  the multibeam echo sounder, at 1 pm yesterday (10/31).

The following is a compilation of National Ocean Service activities in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. 

Navigational Surveys

Immediately following a hurricane, NOS's Office of Coast Survey provides emergency hydrographic services for affected port areas. These services are performed by Navigation Response Teams (NRTs). These mobile emergency response units use echo sounders to check for shoaling and submerged obstructions that pose hazards to vessels, collect data to update nautical charts, and provide mapping support. 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.

Nov. 1 Update:

New York / New Jersey: Restoring fuel flow into the New York area has been a top priority—but barge deliveries have been hampered by water borne obstructions that forced a partial closure of the port. NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson mobilized through the night to New York Harbor (see NOAA Chart 12327), where they began surveying at 3:12 a.m. this morning, looking for the sunken containers, debris, and shoaling that pose dangers to ships and lives. In the darkness, using high tech side scan sonar equipment, Thomas Jefferson conducted the hydrographic survey of the designated areas on the Hudson River. With the information provided by the Thomas Jefferson's survey, the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port was able to open the port to fuel barge traffic this morning. Tank barges and tank ships carries tens of millions of tons of petroleum products through the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Thomas Jefferson has now moved to the Anchorage Channel, and two of her smaller vessels—also equipped with high-tech survey equipment—started surveying at daybreak; one conducting a reconnaissance survey in the Buttermilk Channel, to locate sunken containers; and the other checking for shoaling in Sandy Hook Channel.

Coast Survey's Navigation Response Team 5 got in a full day of surveying yesterday, on the Anchorage Channel. They processed their data overnight, for early delivery to the Captain of the Port, and have started their second day of surveying. Their work will help open the deep draft channel.

Navigation Response Team 2, mobilized from Florida, arrived at the New York Coast Guard station last night, and started their first surveying at daybreak this morning. They will be searching for dangers to navigation between Global Marine Terminal and Port Newark.

Chesapeake: NOAA Ship Ferdinand Hassler completed their survey of deep draft ship channels in Chesapeake Channel and Thimble Shoal Channel, as 78 large vessels, including portions of the Navy's Atlantic Fleet, waited to transit through the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. NOAA R/V Bay Hydro II is working on their third day of surveying in the Hampton Roads area, checking channels needed by coal shipments and aircraft carriers at Norfolk.

Delaware: NOAA R/V Potawaugh mobilized yesterday to Lewes, Del., to survey for shoaling that may pose a risk to safe navigation for the Cape May–Lewes Ferry and other vessels.

Damage Assessment Imagery

After a hurricane hits a coastal area, NOS's National Geodetic Survey (NGS) begins flying photo survey missions to assess storm damage. 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.

Nov. 1 Update: The first round of damage assessment imagery collected on Oct. 31 along the New Jersey coast is now available online.

Oct. 31 Update: NGS is coordinating with federal, state, and local officials to conduct remote sensing efforts in response to Sandy. Early this morning, a NOAA King Air aircraft collected imagery of high impact areas of New Jersey from Atlantic City to Cape May on its first flight. On a second flight slated for later today, NOAA's King Air will focus on areas of better forecast weather along Virginia Beach, Va., south to Cape Hatteras, N.C. A NOAA Twin Otter aircraft is scheduled to depart later today to collect imagery of areas from Ocean City, Md., south to Cape Henry, Va. (including Wallops Island and Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel).

Water-level Monitoring

Before, during, and after Sandy, NOS's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) monitors and disseminates observations of water levels, currents, and weather information in real time via the National Water Level Observation Network and the Physical Oceanographic Real-Time System. Collected real-time environmental information helps coastal authorities prepare for, mitigate, and respond to storm tides and coastal flooding. During the storm, CO-OPS posted regularly updated Storm QuickLooks which provided near real-time compilations of ocean and weather observations for affected coastal areas.

Hazardous Spill Response

After a hurricane, NOS's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific support to hazardous materials response efforts in coastal areas. OR&R surveys vessels or containers that may be leaking fuel, oil, or other hazardous materials; flies missions to identify and document spill sources; and uses computer models to predict spill movement and determine pollution threats. OR&R also provides guidance on marine debris and vessel salvage, conducts shoreline cleanup assessments, collects information to determine natural resource impacts from spills in affected areas, and works to assess and restore resources injured by spills.

Oct. 31 Update: As water levels recede and access improves after the major East Coast storm, the U.S. Coast Guard is getting more reports of pollution incidents and port damage. OR&R is actively supporting Coast Guard efforts with on-scene emergency responders and Geographic Information System (GIS) experts. Recovery after hurricanes such as Sandy can take a very long time and OR&R will likely be active in the efforts to promote recovery in the months to come. One of the challenges facing communities after a devastating weather event is information management. ERMA® (Environmental Response Management Application) is a web-based GIS tool that helps both emergency responders and environmental resource managers deal with environmental impacts. OR&R scientists are ensuring that Atlantic ERMA is prepared to aid in this effort