Storm surge is often most de­struc­tive

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Doyle Rice

Storm surge, the ris­ing mound of wa­ter that builds up and comes ashore dur­ing a hur­ri­cane, could be deadly as Hur­ri­cane Michael roars ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast.

It’s often the most de­struc­tive threat from storms, and in this storm, it could be as high as 14 feet in parts of the coast.

Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Hur­ri­cane Cen­ter, the shape of the coast­line makes it par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to storm surge. Wa­ter forced on shore by the storm could get trapped in es­tu­ar­ies and rivers and pushed in­land.

A storm surge warn­ing was in ef­fect from the Okaloosa/Wal­ton County line to the An­clote River, the hur­ri­cane cen­ter said. Life-threat­en­ing storm surge in­un­da­tion was fore­cast in the warn­ing area and likely to be high­est dur­ing land­fall Wed­nes­day.

“Storm surge is ab­so­lutely deadly,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. “Do not think you can sur­vive it.”

Storm surge ac­counted for about half the deaths in hur­ri­canes since 1970, ac­cord­ing to the hur­ri­cane cen­ter. It caused most of the 1,200 deaths in Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005.

In Su­per­storm Sandy in 2012, storm­surge-in­duced flood­ing mea­sured as high as 9 feet above ground in parts of New York and New Jer­sey, lead­ing to bil­lions of dol­lars in dam­age.

The tidal cy­cle af­fects storm surge, a rise of wa­ter gen­er­ated by a storm over and above the pre­dicted astro­nom­i­cal tides. Storm tide is de­fined as the wa­ter level rise be­cause of the com­bi­na­tion of storm surge and the astro­nom­i­cal tide.

Storm surge flood­ing does not in­clude floods caused by heavy rain from a hur­ri­cane, such as the dis­as­ters in the Caroli­nas this year dur­ing Hur­ri­cane Florence and in Texas last year with Har­vey.

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