News: Modeling Florence’s Storm Surge

2019/04/26 – NCSU College of Engineering
After the Storm


Dr. Casey Dietrich, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering (CCEE), leads the Coastal and Computational Hydraulics Team and develops computational models that predict storm surge and coastal flooding. Using the model ADCIRC, the team makes predictions about how high sea waters will rise, which areas will be flooded and for how long. These predictions are made for the entire coastline, and then his team visualizes the flooding at the scales of individual buildings and coastal infrastructure. During Florence, Dietrich’s team and collaborators acted as liaisons for state emergency managers to aid their decision making.

“The models are just one data point among many, but they’re helpful in understanding hazards and used to make predictions in real time — partly to make decisions about evacuation, where to deploy resources after, safe places to put emergency vehicles and water supplies,” he said.

The state emergency managers are able to use the flooding predictions to get immediate estimates on damages, which helps communities that are figuring out how much recovery will cost.

After Hurricane Matthew in 2016, Dietrich and his colleagues improved the models’ ability to forecast encroaching water along shorelines. Post-Florence, Dietrich said the research focus is to speed up the model and allow for more permutations to see what might happen if a storm slows down or shifts direction.

News: Connecting Erosion to Flooding

2019/04/26 – NC Sea Grant Coastwatch Currents
Model Predicts Storm Impacts on Beaches and Dunes


During storms, strong waves and currents can erode beaches and dunes and create low-lying areas vulnerable to flooding. We use field surveys and a computer model called XBeach to predict this erosion, as well as to understand its interactions with storm-driven flooding of larger regions.

Computer models allow us to see how the storm surge and waves impact the beach over time, and which locations are vulnerable to large-scale damage. Good predictions of such storm impacts help emergency managers take better-informed measures to protect coastal areas. Understanding vulnerabilities also instructs highway access design and residential area planning.

We used the XBeach computer model on more than 30 kilometers of Hatteras Island between Avon and Rodanthe to explore how to connect erosion predictions to larger areas. Could XBeach cover more of the island, yet still provide good erosion predictions at beach and dune scales? And how could we connect erosion predictions to other models for storm surge and flooding?

Alireza Gharagozlou wins Student Educational Award

Ph.D. student Alireza Gharagozlou won the Student Educational Award at the ASBPA National Coastal Conference 2018. This award is given annually to an undergraduate or graduate student who, through his or her research, is furthering the state of the science of coastal systems as it relates to the goals and mission of the ASBPA. Congrats to Alireza!

Alireza accepts the Student Educational Award during the awards luncheon at the ASBPA National Coastal Conference.

News: Post-Florence Field Observations

2018/10/10 – NCSU Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering
CCEE Researchers respond rapidly to Hurricane Florence


Much of the North Carolina coast is lined with sandy beaches and dunes, which can erode during storms, allowing sand onto major roadways and floodwaters into communities. To develop predictions for this erosion and its effects on infrastructure, it was critical to collect observations shortly after the storm. A multi-disciplinary team led by Dr. Elizabeth Sciaudone traveled to Dare County to collect time-sensitive data at Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Pea Island, and Hatteras Island. Working in conjunction with the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE), the Center for Geospatial Analytics in the College of Natural Resources, and industry partner SenseFly, researchers surveyed beach and dune changes. Real-Time Kinematic GPS equipment was used to survey select cross-shore beach and dune profiles and document the extent of dune erosion and overwash (inland sand deposits), such as when NC Highway 12 becomes covered after large storms.

News: Storm Surge Modeling during Hurricane Florence

2018/09/13 – The State of Things on WUNC
Hurricane Florence Coverage from Around the State

Hurricane Florence, which is now a Category 2 storm, continues to bear down on the Carolina coast. The National Weather Service says it is likely to be “the storm of a lifetime” for certain portions of that coastline. Officials have ordered the evacuation of over 1 million people from the coasts of North and South Carolina. … Stasio is joined by Casey Dietrich, a professor in North Carolina State University’s Department of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering and leader of its Coastal and Computational Hydraulics Team. Dietrich explains the models currently being refined to help predict and plan for hurricanes and their effects on coastlines.

For this episode of The State of Things, the full-length podcast is embedded below. The interview with Casey Dietrich starts at about the 37-minute mark. It was great to describe our projects with DHS, NSF, and NC Sea Grant as part of this episode about Hurricane Florence.