Staff Report for Island Eye News
Thanks to a new education and awareness tool, anyone living in hurricane-prone coastal areas along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts can now evaluate their own unique risk to storm surge.
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and Office for Coastal Management now host new high-resolution interactive national inundation risk maps and data via an online web mapping service.
Approximately 22 million people in the U.S. are vulnerable to storm surge. It’s responsible for about half the deaths in the United States due to tropical cyclones, and many evacuation routes become inundated in a variety of scenarios. This map makes it clear that storm surge is not just a beachfront problem, with the risk of storm surge extending several miles from the immediate coastline in some areas.
Florida has a particularly large vulnerable population, with about 40 percent of its residents at risk to storm surge flooding.
NHC utilizes the hydrodynamic Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model to simulate storm surge in 27 basins along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts. Based on climatology, tens of thousands of hypothetical hurricanes are simulated in each basin and the potential storm surges are calculated. Composites of the resulting storm surges are created to assess and visualize overall storm surge risk based on a wide range of possibilities.
Previous versions of this information were created for geographically disparate areas and did not provide a national perspective. The fragmented data created confusion and a technical barrier to understanding and analyzing national vulnerability. The new national map provides a better way to view, analyze, and communicate national storm surge flooding risk, and it greatly reduces confusion.
“You don’t have to think very hard about it, just look at your location on the national map to find out if you are in an area at risk for storm surge from a future tropical storm or hurricane,” Brian Zachry, Ph.D., NHC storm surge specialist, said.
What should individuals do if they discover that they live in an area vulnerable to storm surge? “You should find out today if you live in a hurricane storm surge evacuation zone as determined by your local emergency management agency,” Dr. Rick Knabb, Director of the National Hurricane Center, said. “If you do live in an evacuation zone, decide today where you will go and how you will get there, if and when you’re instructed by emergency managers to evacuate.”
View the maps online at nhc.noaa.gov/surge.