Considered the most life-threatening of tropical hazards is the storm surge. Since 1963, storm surge has caused over half of the tropical cyclone deaths in the United States. Water (including inland flooding), and not wind, has accounted for more than 90% of tropical cyclone deaths.
This particular danger can be put into perspective by considering that 6 inches of fast-moving water can topple an adult and 2 feet of rushing water can float a sport utility vehicle.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines storm surge as an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm's winds. Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline. In the northern hemisphere, the highest surge values typically occur in the right front quadrant of a hurricane where winds are blowing onshore. More intense and larger hurricanes produce higher surge.
Astronomical tides can be exaggerated by storm surges, creating even higher tides. A tropical cyclone making landfall during a high tide with large waves can create remarkable property damage and coastal erosion.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina produced a 27-foot tide on the Mississippi Coast.
Storm surge can rush a long distance inland. Bayous, lakes and rivers can overflow their banks creating serious flood risks well away from the coast.
This year, the National Hurricane Center will roll out two new hurricane products.
Storm surge watches and warnings will be issued to alert coastal residents of the life-threatening danger posed by inland-bound sea waters.
In addition to that, a graphic will accompany the warnings. The Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map will highlight inundation levels at geographical areas to provide a reasonable worst case scenario for specific locations.
You can view our one-hour special, "Weathering the Storm" on Sunday, May 31 from 6-7pm on WBRZ News 2.
The WBRZ Weather Team will bring you more throughout the week, featuring additional information about tropical cyclones through Hurricane Preparedness Week. You can get much more by also visiting www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/
All through the season, check in with the WBRZ Weather Team on News 2, wbrz.com/weather and please keep up with us on social media for the very latest:
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