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Monitors will provide real-time look at stormy waters

William Capurso, Hyrdologic Technician with the USGS, explains

William Capurso, Hyrdologic Technician with the USGS, explains the goal of the sensors on August 15, 2014 that will allow the USGS to access real-time information about water conditions during the next severe storm. Credit: Johnny Milano

Long Island's emergency officials will be able to access real-time information about water conditions during the next severe storm, thanks to an expanded U.S. Geological Survey monitoring system being installed this summer.

The federal agency's Surge, Wave and Tide Hydrodynamic Network will stretch from Virginia to Maine, with about 60 to 70 permanent sites on Long Island, in New York City and in Westchester, agency officials said.

Ten of those sites will feature special sensors that will give real-time information about wave intensity and tide, said Ron Busciolano, supervisory hydrologist with the USGS New York Water Science Center in Coram.

William Capurso, a hydrologic technician with USGS, has been installing the housing brackets for the monitors across Long Island.

On a recent sunny morning, Capurso got to work, dressing in waders and a lifejacket before walking into the waist-high waters of Hart Cove to install the brackets on a piling off the U.S. Coast Guard station in East Moriches.

While Hart Cove was quiet that day, when the next storm hits, the monitor encased in the pole will capture crucial data about wave action and storm intensity, Capurso said.

"We know where we're going to go now to capture the storm event," he said.

A few days before a storm is scheduled to hit, Capurso and his team will place the monitors at each location and retrieve them once the storm recedes.

Ten of the sites will have real-time storm monitors, allowing for wave strength, intensity and water-level information to be updated hourly on the USGS website during a storm, Busciolano said.

"It helps create flood-inundation maps that can determine the best evacuation routes -- who needs to evacuate when and where," Capurso said.

The data collected also can help scientists predict what will happen during future storms, he said.

Previously, scientists would install a few monitoring stations in selected areas in advance of a storm, then would retrieve the sensor later, spending hours doing surveys of the monitor's elevation.

The new locations, which already have been surveyed, will reduce the delay in issuing storm data, the USGS said.

County officials praised the effort.

"The U.S. Geological Survey's new network will help Nassau County to more accurately track storm surge, prepare residents for coastal flooding, and better predict where assistance will be needed ahead of a storm," Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said the system "will provide Suffolk County residents with better, more timely information to be prepared for future storm events."

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