Friday, September 9, 2016

How bad will that coastal storm be? Here's the guy to call

Alan F. Blumberg, 5th from left, director of Davidson Laboratory at Stevens Institute of Technology 

Scott Fallon writes today in The Record:

Tropical Storm Hermine was slowly making its way up the East Coast late last Saturday morning when the National Hurricane Center put out a bulletin:

“DANGEROUS STORM SURGE EXPECTED ALONG THE COAST FROM VIRGINIA TO NEW JERSEY.”

A few hours later, Governor Christie declared a state of emergency for most of the Jersey Shore.

But in his laboratory at Stevens Institute in Hoboken, Alan Blumberg looked at his computer screen and shrugged. His complex computer modeling showed no major threat to the Jersey Shore or to the flood-prone sections of the Hackensack, Passaic and Hudson rivers.

The veteran oceanographer told a reporter at the time that Hermine was “a lot of hype.” The storm, he said, would cause nothing more than some rough surf and a little beach erosion.

Blumberg was right. It would take more than 24 hours before the National Hurricane Center would agree with him and lift its warning for New Jersey.

Along with his 18-member team at Stevens’ Davidson Laboratory monitoring the region’s coastal waterways, Blumberg has become essential in forecasting weather threats to New Jersey and New York City.

He gained notoriety four years ago when he said Superstorm Sandy would inundate New York City, Hoboken and the Meadowlands two days before they were deluged with a historic tidal surge.

“Our forecast for the storm surge that hit the Battery was a foot short,” he said of New York’s southernmost point. “The government models were 2-½ feet short. But I still don’t want to be a foot short again.”

Today Blumberg’s forecast stretches out to 78 hours and is bolstered by a network of ocean and river monitors purchased with some of the $15 million the lab received after its work on Sandy. 

Officials at the Port Authority, Hoboken and elsewhere rely on him.

“When there is a storm, he is the person we call,” Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer said this week. “We have a lot of trust in him.”

Read the full story here

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