BROOKLYN, N.Y. – As Hurricane Joaquin begins to move north, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ North Atlantic Division and its five U.S.-based districts are preparing to respond to the possibility of physical damage resulting.
The division and districts' headquarters activated emergency operations centers and are conducting conference calls to assess readiness and coordinate preparations this week. Leaders are adjusting those staff activities based on conditions and forecasts to align with other federal partners and projected requirements.
Established in 1929, and located at historic Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, the Corps’ North Atlantic Division headquarters is responsible for navigation, coastal storm risk management, flood risk management, and a large percentage of military construction from Maine south to the Virginia-North Carolina border, as well as military construction projects in Europe. It commands and controls six districts based in the following locations: Concord, Massachusetts; New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Norfolk, Virginia; and Wiesbaden, Germany.
New England, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Norfolk Districts manage flood risk management projects which the Corps built across the northeast during the last century as a result of past, major flooding events, especially in the New England states. Crews at those dam and lake sites have already lowered water levels to where they are kept after the summer ends, so maximum storage capacity is available for a major rain event. The districts are also coordinating with non-federal partners who maintain flood risk management projects.
North Atlantic Division’s districts also manage coastal storm risk management systems including hurricane barriers protecting low-lying coastal communities. Technical experts have made final checks on the barriers’ gates should they be needed and raised.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the lead agency for the public works and engineering emergency support function when federal authorities declare disasters and emergencies. The North Atlantic Division and its districts work closely with Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Regions I, II and III counterparts, as well as other federal, state and local partners when federal disasters or emergencies in the region occur.
The North Atlantic Division’s preparatory activities for Joaquin are shaped by lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, a powerful tropical storm which struck the Atlantic coastline in late October 2012, resulting in loss of life, severe damage to coastal communities and the coastline, and widespread power outages.
Following that hurricane, the Corps established the Sandy Coastal Management Division (SCMD) to oversee the recovery program, applying lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005.
The Sandy Recovery Program projects since 2013 have fallen into four categories:
- Flood control and coastal emergencies (FCCE) projects which addressed emergent issues created by Sandy. All 25 FCCE projects are complete.
- Operations and maintenance projects that have focused on repairing facilities and navigation channels damaged by Sandy. Of 86 O&M projects, 67 of them are complete.
- “Authorized but unconstructed” (ABU) projects which address coastal requirements pre-dating Hurricane Sandy, but which had not moved into a construction phase prior to the storm and could now be integrated into the Sandy Recovery Program’s holistic approach. One ABU project is complete, nine projects are in various phases of construction, while eight proposed projects are still being coordinated with state and local officials.
- In addition to the program’s ongoing risk-reduction studies that were underway at the time of Hurricane Sandy, new studies will analyze nine coastline focus areas as a system to develop the most effective solutions for the future.
One measure of the North Atlantic Division’s efforts to make the coast more resilient is the amount of sand which it has pumped as part of coastal storm risk management projects, including the restoration of dunes and beaches which can absorb some of a major storm’s energy. According to the SCMD project data, the districts have placed more than 33 million cubic yards of sand along coastlines in their areas of responsibility – enough to fill New York City’s Empire State Building 24 times.
North Atlantic Division leaders encourage everyone to be safe and prepare for the possibility of a storm and risk of resulting damage based on the most current available information. If you live within an area that will be affected by the storm, take shelter in a structure which can sustain anticipated wind speeds if it is not threatened by projected tides and storm surge, or evacuate if necessary in accordance with instructions from local authorities.
Do not drive through flooded, low-lying areas, and exercise extreme caution moving around outside after the storm due to the risk of downed power lines often found in areas suffering wind damage. If you observe storm damage to infrastructure in your community, report it to local authorities, and please assist vulnerable neighbors who might need help.
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Additional, by-state information about Hurricane Sandy recovery and restoration projects is available at this link: http://www.nad.usace.army.mil/Sandy
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