Destructive and powerful, the warnings for a storm surge shouldn’t be ignored. With the potential to increase storm tides of 20 feet or more,1 a storm surge can wreak havoc along the coastlines with its strong waves.
What is a storm surge?
When the strong winds of a hurricane or tropical storm generate an abnormal rise in water levels, this is called a storm surge. Although hurricanes and tropical storms are the primary cause, storm surges can also occur from a nor’easter in winter.2 The strength of a storm surge, including central pressure, storm intensity and the coastline’s shape, can all impact water levels. A storm surge can flood an area and threaten the safety of both people and property.
Storm surge facts
- When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana the height of the storm surge was 28 feet tall.3
- 24 million people is the approx. number of those living along the east and gulf coasts at risk of flooding from a storm surge.4
- The estimated cost of Hurricane Katrina's damage, including destruction from storm surge and winds was $108 billion.5
Coastline and inland impacts of storm surge's
In addition to the destruction of homes and businesses from the force of the pounding waves, a storm surge can damage highways along the coast and erode the beaches, too.
Water from the surge can move inland and flood smaller bodies of water, including rivers and lakes, potentially destroying property in the area. Salt water from storm surge can kill vegetation inland and displace animals native to those bodies of water.
How to plan for a storm surge
Prepare to survive
Create a storm preparedness plan for your business and employees, and be aware of the correct evacuation routes.
Make changes to your property
Investing in storm-resilient modifications and securing small items outdoors may help minimize damage.
Be aware of water dangers
It only takes six inches of water to knock you down, and only one foot of water to sweep away your car.7 Do not attempt to walk through flooded areas in your building or outside. Contaminated water and electric shock from equipment are very high risks.
Evacuate when ordered to do so
In the event of any severe weather, it is vital to follow instructions of local officials, including evacuation orders. A storm surge can cut off an evacuation route with little notice, leaving you at risk.8
1. National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Storm Surge Overview.” www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge
2. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service. “Potential Storm Surge Flooding: Tips for Media Professionals.” www.nhc.noaa.govp
3. “Introduction to Storm Surge.” www.nhc.noaa.gov.
4. National Hurricane Center. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “National Storm Surge Hazard Maps – Version 2.” Accessed 15 October 2018. www.nhc.noaa.gov/nationalsurge
5. National Weather Service. “Extremely Powerful Hurricane Katrina Leaves a Historic Mark on the Northern Gulf Coast.” August 2005. Updated November 2016. https://www.weather.gov/mob/katrina
6. National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Storm Surge Overview.” www.nhc.noaa.gov/surge
7. NWS Flood Safety Home Page, et al. “NWS Flood Safety Home Page.” National Weather Service, NOAA’s National Weather Service, 1 Jan. 2001, www.nws.noaa.gov/os/water/tadd/.
8. Department of Homeland Security. “Floods.” Accessed 4 April 2019. www.ready.gov/floods