While storm surge is water that is pushed onto shore by a hurricane, it is rarely seen as a “wall of water.” More commonly, storm surge is experienced as a rapid rise in the water level – as fast as several feet in just a few minutes. A cubic yard of sea water weighs in at more than 1,700 pounds – almost a ton – and is propelled by the forward speed of the hurricane (typically 10 to 15 mph). Standing in storm surge as shallow as six inches can be challenging, and a one-foot deep storm surge exerts enough power to sweep a car off the road.
Tropical Storm and Hurricane
A hurricane is an intense tropical weather disturbance that occurs in the ocean when sustained winds reach 74 miles per hour or more. Hurricanes thrive in waters with a temperature of at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit, combined with a moist environment and non-shearing winds in the upper atmosphere, which allow the hurricane to grow vertically.
Commonly, hurricanes move throughout a large and elevated pressure system called a Bermuda High, which is characteristic for the mid-Atlantic region of the United States; however some hurricanes can be difficult to forecast due to its unpredictable path.
Since 1953 hurricanes have been given names to keep track of storms occurring at the same time. In 1979, male names were added to the register, which is comprised of six annual lists that are rotated every six years. If a tropical storm or hurricane causes notable death or destruction, the name will no longer be used for future storms.
Storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, beyond the predicted tide levels. This rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas particularly when storm surge coincides with normal high tide, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more. It is important to understand the risks of a hurricane storm surge and heed the warnings and evacuation orders given by local emergency management officials.
Knowing which angle the hurricane storm surge is approaching is very important. Damage to a particular region can vary based on which side of the hurricane hits the area. The Right-Front Quadrant (RFQ) of a hurricane is the strongest side of the storm and will deliver the highest storm surge. For example, a hurricane that strikes the coast straight on will do the most damage as it relates to storm surge.
Each year prior to hurricane season, your family should review your existing hurricane strategy and make changes as necessary. Your hurricane strategy should include evacuation plans, such as where your family and pets will go, what route to take, when to leave and what supplies are necessary. Supplies should last for a minimum of 72 hours.
In the event the storm is a threat to your surrounding area, listen to local media for information and instructions. Additionally, please note the following information to prepare for an emergency:
Should you remain home during a hurricane, please note the following precautions:
- Secure all windows, doors and take refuge in a small interior room, such as a closet, hallway or basement
- Cover yourself underneath a sturdy table or a mattress for protection
- When the eye of the storm passes, remain indoors despite calmer conditions outdoors. Winds will soon raidly increase to hurricane force in the opposite direction
After a Storm
- If you evacuated, wait until authorities allow you to return before doing so
- Stay on firm ground and beware of fallen objects, flooded areas and debris
- Make sure your vehicles have plenty of gas and drive only if necessary
- Replenish supplies, such as batteries, non-perishable food and water
When you return to your home: