Adaptation Plan Cuts Irma Damage and Saves Money

The Takeaway: NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer, trainings, and tidal gauge helped Tybee Island boost safety and lower flood insurance costs.

When Hurricane Irma hit Tybee Island, Georgia, the community was better able to weather the storm both physically and financially, thanks to a sea level rise adaptation plan that saves $3 million on insurance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Community Rating System. The plan was informed by the NOAA Digital Coast’s Sea Level Rise Viewer and trainings in adaptation and flood mapping.

The adaptation strategies safeguard Tybee Island’s contribution to the tourism and recreation economy of Chatham County, which in 2014 reported more than $241 million in gross domestic product.

For the adaption effort, new living shorelines stabilized creek banks and slowed storm surge. Tide gates on stormwater discharge points minimized flooding. Lift stations that pumped wastewater from lower to higher elevations were flood-proofed, preventing spills, and generators kept the stations running even when power went out.

A nearby NOAA tidal gauge confirmed the community’s need for adaptation, recording a 10-inch rise in sea level since 1935. The one causeway on and off the island saw a record 23 tidal flooding events in 2015, blocking access to the mainland and local businesses and heightening dangers.

NOAA National Sea Grant’s Coastal Communities Climate Adaptation Initiative led this effort. (2017)

More Information: Story from the Field

Partners: City of Tybee Island, Georgia Coastal Resources Division, Georgia Sea Grant, Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, University of Georgia

Fast Fact: Did you know that communities that participate in the National Flood Insurance Program can save up to 45 percent on insurance premium under the Community Rating System? For more statistics related to this story, check out Hazard Mitigation Value and Hurricane Costs.