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Taking Safety Littorally

PASADENA – In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan’s coastal region. Last year, Hurricane Sandy caused a wall of water to engulf low-lying coastal areas on the East Coast of the United States, particularly in New York and New Jersey. Such catastrophic events underscore the vulnerability of coastal regions worldwide to extreme weather events that produce intense storm surges (increased water depth at the coast) and large, powerful waves.

Although Sandy, at its peak, was only a post-tropical cyclone when it hit the US, its winds spanned an area of 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles), leading to extreme storm surges and waves that decimated the Jersey Shore, flattening communities and destroying the casinos and boardwalks on which the local economy largely depends. At Battery Park, on Manhattan’s south end, the surge height reached 4.2 meters, flooding homes and businesses and plunging millions into darkness. Waves also reached extreme heights, with a buoy near the entrance to New York Harbor measuring a peak wave ten meters high, from crest to trough.