Science and the storms: the USGS response to the hurricanes of 2005

Circular 1306

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This report is designed to give a view of the immediate response of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to four major hurricanes of 2005: Dennis, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. Some of this response took place days after the hurricanes; other responses included fieldwork and analysis through the spring. While hurricane science continues within the USGS, this overview of work following these hurricanes reveals how a Department of the Interior bureau quickly brought together a diverse array of its scientists and technologies to assess and analyze many hurricane effects. Topics vary from flooding and water quality to landscape and ecosystem impacts, from geotechnical reconnaissance to analyzing the collapse of bridges and estimating the volume of debris. Thus, the purpose of this report is to inform the American people of the USGS science that is available and ongoing in regard to hurricanes. It is the hope that such science will help inform the decisions of those citizens and officials tasked with coastal restoration and planning for future hurricanes.

Chapter 1 is an essay establishing the need for science in building a resilient coast. The second chapter includes some hurricane facts that provide hurricane terminology, history, and maps of the four hurricanes’ paths. Chapters that follow give the scientific response of USGS to the storms. Both English and metric measurements are used in the articles in anticipation of both general and scientific audiences in the United States and elsewhere. Chapter 8 is a compilation of relevant ongoing and future hurricane work. The epilogue marks the 2-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. An index of authors follows the report to aid in finding articles that are cross-referenced within the report.

In addition to performing the science needed to understand the effects of hurricanes, USGS employees helped in the rescue of citizens by boat and through technology by “geoaddressing” 911 calls after Katrina and Rita so that other rescuers could find persons trapped in attics and porches. They also delivered food and water to residents stranded along the lower Mississippi River for several days. That work is reported in chapter 3 of this volume.

A great number of scientists contributed to this peer-reviewed report designed for a general audience. Because they work for USGS—an unbiased, multidisciplinary science organization that focuses on biology, geography, geology, geospatial information, and water—they are dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape and natural resources of the Nation, as well as natural hazards, like hurricanes, that threaten the Nation. To learn more about their work, visit the USGS Web site (

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Science and the storms: the USGS response to the hurricanes of 2005
Series title:
Series number:
Version 1.0
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
National Wetlands Research Center
viii, 276 p.