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Mason scientists are working to estimate the potential flooding from Hurricane Florence in our region

September 11, 2018

A team of George Mason University researchers are working to gauge the potential effects of Hurricane Florence on the Washington, D.C., area.

Celso Ferreira, an associate professor of water resources engineering in Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering, said the storm is poised to come ashore in the Carolinas. It has the potential, however, to also inflict damage to infrastructure near the nation’s capital because of the combination of high coastal surges and expected inland flooding.

“Storm surge is an abnormal rise of the sea level caused by the strong winds and low pressure from the hurricane, and will bring flood water to generally dry parts of the coast,” Ferreira said. “The combination of heavy precipitation and high storm surges is especially concerning to infrastructure as it prevents the water from draining out of the watersheds and therefore accumulating in low-lying areas.”

Ferreira is part of the Mason Flood Hazards Research Lab that develops real-time flood guidance every four hours and predicts future flooding for the region for the next three and a half days. Mason provides that information directly to the National Weather Service. As a result, Ferreira and his team continue to closely monitor the path of the storm and its potential impact.

Hurricane Florence is expected to move slowly and dump an extensive amount of rain on the entire region, which could result in severe flooding.

Ferreira said that could prove problematic for the Potomac River, already at moderate flood stage, and a region already saturated from precipitation.

“Our region is especially susceptible to flood hazards when there is the perfect combination of storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay, high river flows from heavy precipitation in the mountains and urban storm water overflows,” he said.

Celso Ferreira can be reached at 703-993-1675 or at cferrei3@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or jhollis2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason 

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 37,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.