This paper discusses the value of a community approach to characterizing the coastal storm hazard, e.g., hurricane water levels and wave conditions, through field measurements, data analysis, and modeling. Value is illustrated using experiences and results from recent and ongoing projects. One example is recently completed work by the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET), which was commissioned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The IPET was charged with gathering the facts regarding performance of the hurricane protection system in Southeast Louisiana in response to Hurricane Katrina. A second example is ongoing work being lead by the Corps to design projects that can greatly reduce the likelihood and consequences of flooding for coastal Louisiana and Mississippi. These investigations are being closely coordinated with work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency to update flood insurance rate maps for the region. Findings and lessons learned are discussed, and challenges in making accurate surge and wave predictions are identified, including: 1) inaccuracy in coastal and estuarine wind fields, 2) specification of a wind drag law in shallow coastal areas, and 3) problems in treating nearshore wave set-up and coupling into surge models. A new Corps research program that is addressing many of these issues, also a community effort, is described as are results from early progress in selected problem areas. The paper presents advantages to developing open-source, community-based computer software for coastal storm wave and surge predictions, and some problems with today's over-reliance on proprietary software.
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