Understanding Storm Surge
With severe weather and hurricane season upon us, we should examine the dangers posed by storm surge, which is a common occurrence whenever major storms make landfall. Storm surge is the abnormal rise of seawater related to tropical storms and hurricanes, and while it is expected, the level and severity of the surge is often impossible to accurately predict.
Storm surge is water that is pushed toward land by strong winds, with many factors contributing to its effects such as intensity, pressure, forward speed, size, the area where it makes landfall, and other factors. Some storm surges can be lethal, such as the surge generated by hurricane Katrina which killed 1500 people
The National Hurricane Center is developing newer procedures designed to measure storm surge, using high resolution , color coded maps, similar to the radar map on your local newscast. These maps are scheduled to go into general use by 2014 at the latest.
The coming storm season is projected to be very busy, with anywhere between 13 and 20 named storms expected to churn up out of the Atlantic, 7 to 11 of which will strengthen into hurricanes. The Hurricane Center is expecting to add to its staff of storm surge forecasters, hopefully providing as much as 48 hours notice before the onset of tropical storm effects.
For many counties, evacuation zones are plotted around projected storm surge as opposed to hurricane winds or other factors.
“Storm surges can behave so differently from storm to storm,” said Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist who has taken the lead on social science at the hurricane center. While Hurricane Irene failed to produce the storm surge that many expected, the surge generated by hurricane Sandy last year marked a significant change from what had been established as the norm.
Advances in technology in the meteorological world means that advance warning for storm surge problems could steadily improve over the next several years. By being aware of the storm surge threat and the consequences for a given area, residents and property owners in storm prone areas can make better advance plans to deal with evacuations and the securing of the property well in advance of the storm’s arrival.
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