Storm Surge: The Dangers and why it occurs

With all of the hurricanes as of late, I figured it would be good to explain storm surge and why it occurs and what makes it worse.

Obviously when talking about hurricanes we hear a lot about pressures in stronger storms dropping into the low 900 mb which is usually a sign that the hurricane will generate more wind based on the pressure.  Going counter clockwise, this storm generates wind. For example Hurricane Irma had winds of 185 and pressures sub 930. That wind pushes water around it as Irma came to Florida as a weakened hurricane it still generated major surge. The size of Irma also played a part on how wide the storm surge occurred. As it made its north turn storm surge on the Florida Keys, Miami, and Ft Lauderdale, water rose as the southeast and east winds drove water feet above where people could stand. This pushed into city streets. The water comes in with a lot of strength so that is why people are at risk .6 inches of moving water can knock you off your feet so feet of moving water, you can see the issue and why people in storm surge lose there lives. On the west coast of Florida you could walk in Tampa bay. The strong winds drove water out of the bays and rivers with the northeast wind but as the storm passed the location and wind was out of the west and southwest, and all of the water rushed back inland flooded locations. Storm surge occurred up into the Carolinas even due to the size of Irma.

So here are some takeaways about storm surges

1) Number 1 killer in hurricanes

2) Water level rise does not include waves on top. It is only the rise of water from normal ground level and a push inland of that water.

3) Storm surge can knock houses over, push cars and obviously pick up people.

4) A Category 1 like Hurricane Sandy had the surge of a Category 3 hurricane due to size and Category 3 barometric pressure as the storm became hybrid.

5) The National Hurricane Center now issues storm surge watch and warnings, if your local emergency management asked or tells you to leave, please do. Go to Shelters. Most shelters now allow animals.

As discussed storm surge can be fatal so if faced with storm surge in a hurricane. Please be smart and move inland.

Dean D Davison

Meteorologist

Irma, hurricane
Radar image of Hurricane Irma and storm surge flooding in Jacksonville and Daytona Beach. Screenshot by Storm Squad of RadarScope app. 
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