For most people, wind speed is the most common measure of a hurricane's power. We often think that the wind speed is the most major threat from a hurricane, but there is another factor that is an even bigger threat: storm surge.
Storm surge can be a killer and a crippler, according to the U.S. government experts. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, 1,500 deaths were attributed to storm surge. Storm surge could potentially bring half the nation's economic movement to a standstill.
The National Hurricane Center defines storm surge as an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides. In addition to the rising water, there are battering waves carrying 1,700 pounds of water per cubic yard.
Buildings along the coast can sustain major damage after being pounded over and over by that heavy mass of water. Surge will vary depending on the shelf near the coast. A Category 4 hurricane in Louisiana may produce a 20-foot storm surge, while it may only generate 8 to 9 feet near Miami.
Keep in mind that the population of Gulf Coast counties has increased about 32% since 1990. The government also says the population of the Atlantic Coast counties increased about 17%. Over half of the nation's economic productivity is within the coastal zones. In the Gulf region alone, about 72% of ports and more than one-fourth of the major roads are at or below four feet of elevation.
A storm surge of 23 feet would overwhelm two-thirds of the interstates, 29 airports and nearly all ports in the Gulf Coast area. When you add this all up it can equal a lot of dollars in damage, but life is more valuable. When you are ordered to leave, go!
First Coast News