Delaware Coastal Storm Climatology and Damage Report: 1923-2009

This project was funded, in part, through a grant from the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve with funding from the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under award numbers NA08NOS4200047.


With more than 250 miles of shoreline, and with no point in the State more than 8 miles from tidal waters, Delaware is a State that is significantly impacted by coastal storm events. In the period from 1980 through 2005, the United States suffered more than 500 billion dollars in losses from severe weather events, 40% of which were associated with coastal storms. As Delaware's coastal development and population continue to increase, the risk of significant damages and loss of life along Delaware's coastline is greatly enhanced. An excellent example of the impact of coastal storms along the northeast coast of the United States was seen recently with the coastal storm event of November 12 -19, 2009 with estimated damages of more than 100 million dollars from North Carolina through New England. Although Delaware has been greatly impacted by past coastal storms, very little information has been compiled on the frequency and characteristics of storms events and the damage caused by the storms along the Atlantic and Delaware Bay coastlines of the State, at least in the last three decades. Technical Report #4 of the Delaware Coastal Management Program, published in 1977, represents the last significant study of coastal storms and associated damages across Delaware.

As part of a cooperative effort between the University of Delaware and several Delaware State Agencies to better monitor conditions along the Delaware coastline and to provide advance warning of impending coastal flooding events, a climatology of coastal storms and coastal storm damage along the Delaware coast for the period 1871 through 2009 was completed. A major thrust of this project has been to determine areas of the State most susceptible to damage from coastal storms and the type and magnitude of damage associated with these events. Significant coastal storms were identified using diverse meteorological data, storm reports, newspaper accounts, and other weather related archives. Characteristics of the storms identified in this project include storm provenance (place of origin and path), meteorological distinctives associated with the storm (wind speed, wind direction, precipitation type and amount, temperature, etc.), and ocean characteristics during the event (tide levels, wave heights, wave periods, wave energies, etc.). In addition, damages associated with each storm were presented with as fine a spatial resolution as possible (i.e. statewide, county, municipality, etc.).

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Delaware Environmental Observing System
Delaware Geological Survey
UD College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment