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Homeland Security

Army Engineers Projects Minimize Irene's Effects

September 2, 2011

Tropical Storm Irene caused severe flooding and other storm related damages in the Northeast. But the damage would have been worse in many areas without the systems of locally- and federally-sponsored dams, levees, hurricane barriers, sea walls, and storm damage protection projects, say U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials.

To prepare for the tropical storm, Army Corps hydrologists throughout the Northeast lowered pool levels at Corps-managed dams a few days before the storm to create additional storage for storm runoff.

"We ensured that all our pool levels were at the level they should be to have the full volume of flood control storage available at the start of the flood," said Ralph LaMoglia, hydraulic engineer at the Corps' North Atlantic Division.

Districts then decreased stream flows once the storm arrived to reduce the downstream flood risk.

Corps-owned hurricanes barriers in New England were also operated to reduce area tidal flooding and storm surge effects.

"Each barrier is a little bit different. But once the tide reached a predetermined level, they were closed to protect the harbor areas behind them from tidal flooding," said LaMoglia. "When the tide fell below that predetermined level, we started to them open again."

Immediately following the storm, the Corps deployed teams of responders who were already prepositioned and ready to provide critical commodities, temporary power, and technical assistance, such as infrastructure assessment. The Corps also immediately deployed drift collection vessels to clear potentially hazardous storm debris from the waters in federal channels, such as the New York and New Jersey Harbor and Hampton Roads Harbor in Norfolk, VA.

Currently, the Corps is working closely with local, state, and federal partners as part of the federal government's unified response, coordinating and organizing public works and engineering-related support.

Throughout the country, the Army Corps executes roughly $1.6 billion annually in its flood risk management program. The Corps estimates that damages prevented from having those systems in place average $25.2 billion annually.

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