Tailored flooding data set for Fernandina Beach
Image via Wes Wolfe.

fernandina beach city hall
The goal is to provide accurate warnings and severity predictions of flood events.

You can predict the tides until the sun implodes, but pegging the water level isn’t so easy, especially in our era of accelerating climate change and sea-level rise.

A multiorganization effort to do something about that resulted in Fernandina Beach becoming a hub for the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (SECOORA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) water-level monitoring and forecast system.

Similar work in South Carolina showed results.

“For example, Sullivan’s Island, they’ve established on our website a caution threshold and a flooding threshold as opposed to the NOAA site, which is a national-scale site that provides the same data for all communities,” said Nicole Elko, science director for the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association (ASBPA). “What we’ve been doing with this project is providing customized thresholds for each community.”

Also involved with the project are experts from Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University and Georgia Tech, among other places.

“The NOAA sensor is there (at the marina), and we chose this location because you have the NOAA station there already,” Elko said at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting. “Unlike many other coastal communities in the Southeast, you all actually know what your water levels are because NOAA has a station in your town. There are so many towns up and down the whole East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico … that don’t have a tide gauge anywhere near them, so they’re really in the dark as to what their water levels are at any given time.”

The sensors’ function is to collect reliable data that can be used to pinpoint where flooding will happen and its severity.

“Giving some security to the community, to the Mayor, at night when we have coastal flooding events, to know what their water levels are, is one real goal of this project,” Elko said.

Each sensor team handles its own outreach — people can see what her team is up to at dashboard.hohonu.io. The five-year project will allow the city to receive notifications when water reaches those caution and flooding thresholds.

Mayor Mike Lednovich thanked Elko and urged her to keep up the good work.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


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