Weather or Not: What is storm surge?

Credit: Brandon Clement/LSM
Credit: Brandon Clement/LSM(Credit: Brandon Clement/LSM)
Published: Sep. 17, 2018 at 12:39 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Hurricanes can have devastating impacts as they make landfall. One of the biggest threats is storm surge.

Storm surge is abnormal rise of water generated by a storm over the predicted high and low tides. Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore or a river by the force of the winds moving around the storm. Storm surges are sensitive to specific factors. The slightest changes in storm intensity, forward speed, size, the angle towards the coast, central pressure, and the shape of coastal features can change how big of a threat storm surge is.

As a hurricane or tropical system moves closer to the coastline the normal sea level starts to rise as the eye wall moves closer to land. This will raise the sea level a few feet depending on how strong the tropical system is. The storm surge is the amount of water that is on top of the normal tide. A strong wind that is pushing towards the coast is pushing all that water forward onto land. There is nowhere for the water to go…except onto land.

3 feet of storm surge can carry parked cars and sweep any person of their feet. You increase that to 6 feet and it can carry large objects and flood the first floor of most buildings. Storms surges near 9 or 10 feet will cover one story buildings and make a very dangerous situation.

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