Storm Surge Could Become A Larger Issue in the Future


 Savannah, GA (WSAV)- Highway 80… A 2-lane highway that connects TYBEE island to the rest of Chatham county. The only way on and off can cause travel to be very limited, especially when the lanes are blocked.

Currently, the Georgia Department Of Transportation is in the process of widening Highway 80 in low-lying areas to help when there are accidents and coastal flooding.

“They are raising those spots 8”. Then, they will complete with a final coat. And then stripe it. Once they stripe it, they will be getting rid of the passing lanes, says the City Manager Of Tybee, Shawn Gillen

But Tybee Island isn’t just prone to coastal flooding. The island has seen its fair share of hurricanes. When both Matthew and Irma came through, Tybee residents had to evacuate. While the evacuation gave residents enough time, coming back home was a different story, especially for emergency vehicles.

 Gillen believes the bridges are too narrow. “There is no breakdown lane. There is no way to get around an accident. No matter how wide you make the rest of the road, those two bridges are your bottlenecks.”

Gillen is hoping for fewer problems for residents, beach goers, and emergency vehicles with each step of the construction.

However, flooding was a major issue during Irma. As the storm ripped through, it was right on cue with high tide, meaning the water level was already at its peak and was able to carry more water inland.

The Fort Pulaski tide gauge measured just over 12-feet  during Irma. Major flooding levels start at 10-feet. That same tide gauge has been recording sea level fluctuations since 1935 and has measured sea levels rising about a foot in less than a century. If you would like to look at how storm surge could impact your area, click here to visit NOAA’s National Storm Surge Hazards Maps.

As sea levels rise every year, waters will be a little bit higher. That means if a storm comes in, because the average high tide level is higher, the storm surges are higher so damage is more extensive.” says Dr. Clark Alexander. Alexander is the Director of the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.

By using Dr. Alexander’s hazards portal, we can estimate the extent of storm surge. However, flooding as a result of a tropical system could push farther inland if sea levels continue to rise. If you would like to look at the portal, click here.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, storm surge levels today have increased 8 inches since 1900 and it expects it to rise an additional 8 inches by the end of this century.

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