Why Storm Surges Are so Important

The hurricane category only tells you about wind speed, but most of its destruction comes from floods. Hurricane Florence can experience up to 30 inches of rain in some areas plus 10 feet of storm surge.

What is storm surge?

Hurricane winds push the water even when the storm is still in the ocean. The water that hits the ground becomes a storm surge .

Think about how the tide can roll in from the sea and hide land that used to be bare. This is similar, except that you have tides in addition to storm surge that raise the water level even higher.

Where does storm surge occur?

This is not only a problem on the coast. Storm surges can cause flooding in headwaters or in any low-lying areas that the surges reach. North Carolina is so flat that the surge is expected to cause flooding many miles inland.

How many floods should be expected?

Total flooding depends on storm surge, including storm surges, plus rainfall. It varies according to the precise contours of the ground. And your safety during a storm also depends on other factors: your house may be dry, but if all roads are flooded, it won’t help you much. In summary, if you or your loved one is in the area, the most important card is the evacuation card .

But if you’re curious about predicted flooding, here is a storm surge forecast map from the National Hurricane Center. Projections change as more information becomes available, and the NHC notes that the map “includes many assumptions and limitations, and it cannot tell you how many floods will definitely happen in a given location.”

Precipitation forecasts are shown on a separate map , and these forecasts will also change as forecasters observe the approaching storm.

Until then, stay tuned to weather.gov for public announcements and listen to local warnings and evacuation orders. Also check out our quick reference for hurricane tracking tools . Stay safe there.


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