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How to Protect Your Property from Storm Surge

2024-07-01 18:40


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  • Storm surge accompanies tropical storms and hurricanes. Know what to do to protect your home or business ahead of a storm surge. SERVPRO® is Here to Help® when you need water damage restoration.

    Storm surge is a term you often hear during hurricane season. This extreme weather condition is caused by winds of a storm system pushing water toward the coastline. A storm surge can cause massive flooding and leave destruction in its wake. However, there are steps you can take to plan for storm surge, which can help minimize damage to your property and belongings.  

    Given the 2024 hurricane season is predicted to be extremely active, it is important to be ready ahead of time and know what you can do to protect your property and family in case of a weather emergency, like a storm surge. 

    What is Storm Surge?

    According to Weather Underground, a storm surge occurs when sea water is pushed onto shore by a tropical storm or hurricane (notably, the water level can rise to several feet in just a few minutes). Meteorologists say a storm surge usually moves with the forward speed of a tropical storm or hurricane. Ultimately, a storm surge is a powerful, destructive force of water; one cubic yard of sea water weighs nearly one ton. 

    When to Evacuate

    When officials give the order to evacuate, it is a better idea to get out sooner rather than later. Historically, storm surges from a tropical system or hurricane arrive 24 hours ahead of landfall (this is typical of storms along the Gulf of Mexico).  

    Weather Underground notes that storm surge is the most dangerous part of a hurricane, and has claimed more lives than the 10 deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.  

    How Big is a Storm Surge?

    The size of a storm surge is determined by three actions according to Weather Underground. Those actions are:

    • The action of the winds piling up water (typically more than 85% of the surge). 
    • Waves pushing water inland faster than it can drain off. This is called wave set-up. Wave set-up is typically 5-10% of the surge. 
    • The low pressure of a hurricane sucking water higher into the air near the eye (typically 5-10% of the surge). 

    The height of storm surge is directly related to the winds of a storm, ocean surface, and at which point during the tide cycle the surge occurs, according to National Geographic. Scientists say that if storm surge happens during high tide, the surge will be higher. Storm surge can be as high as 33 feet (10 meters) during high tide. Homes and businesses that lie in coastal areas below sea level should always be on alert for storm surges during tropical storms or hurricanes, as these areas are more prone to mass flooding during storm surges.  

    Can I Protect My Property from Storm Surge?

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has several ideas on how you can protect your property from storm surge, both outside and inside. Some suggestions include: 

    Protecting Your Property Outside:

    • Elevate your home. FEMA suggests elevating your property, which can be one the most effective ways to protect it from a storm surge. Raising the elevation of your property allows the rising waters of a storm surge to pass underneath. Although this is costly, FEMA points out that elevating your property can also lower your insurance premiums, as raising the elevation of your property can prevent costly water damage to your foundation.  
    • Reinforce the garage door. FEMA officials say a conventional garage door will not stand up to the force of water or high winds characteristic of a tropical storm or hurricane. They advise a reinforced garage door or adding a bracing kit to your existing door. Doing so may help prevent the storm surge from breaking into your home.  
    • Protect windows and doors. FEMA recommends reinforcing windows and doors ahead of a tropical storm or hurricane. As they note, “Doors and windows are common points of failure during a storm. When they break open, wind, water, and debris can seriously damage your house and belongings. Storm shutters and high-impact glass can prevent glass from breaking.”  
    • Secure a manufactured home. To get flood insurance for a manufactured home, the home must be secured to a permanent foundation, according to FEMA. Officials say securing the home will help prevent flotation, collapse, or movement.  
    • Secure outdoor objects. FEMA officials say outdoor furniture, toys, and even plants should be put up, or otherwise secured, prior to a tropical storm or hurricane. These items can cause further damage to your property if they become airborne.  
    • Trim or remove dead or rotting trees and limbs. In the high winds of a tropical storm, hurricane, and/or storm surge, trees and branches will fall, as FEMA notes; these objects can cause more harm to your property. FEMA advises a property should lie one full-grown tree’s height from the base of any tree. Trimming tree limbs and removing dead trees can prevent property or roof damage during a storm surge.  
    • Seal gaps and cracks. The high winds of storm surge can break through even small gaps and cracks in your property. FEMA advises the use of a waterproof sealant to fill in holes around windows and doors, or gaps where wires enter the building. Doing so will prevent as much water as possible from seeping into your property during the surge.  
    • Anchor fuel tanks. FEMA recommends anchoring exterior fuel tanks such as propane fuel or other outdoor utility tanks that could become loose in a storm surge. Officials say securing these objects can prevent sliding and overturning of the exterior fuel tanks and prevent damage to your property during a storm surge.  

    Protecting Your Property Inside:  

    • Have an emergency plan. FEMA strongly advises having an emergency plan in place, which you practice often. Officials recommend knowing a pre-planned place to take your vehicles that is on high ground. As always, they urge you to evacuate when the order is given to leave. Review the SERVPRO® Emergency Ready Plan for more information. 
    • Flood insurance. This type of policy can help you replace what is lost. Keep in mind, most homeowners' insurance policies do not cover flood damage, so a flood policy is a separate purchase.  
    • Keep a list of your contents. Officials recommend keeping a current document of your home or business' contents. This will assist you with insurance claims if a storm surge damages your property. They advise photos or a video as the best way to document the contents of your property.  
    • Raise appliances off the floor. FEMA officials say common household appliances such as washers, dryers, water heaters, and more should be kept on a riser. Raising these appliances can help to prevent the high water of a storm surge from entering the delicate electrical components of appliances.  
    • Use flood-resistant materials. In some cases, it is possible to outfit your building with flood- or water-resistant materials. Insulation, drywall, and floor choices such as tile are water-resistant. As FEMA notes, using water-resistant materials can help minimize water damage from a storm surge or any other type of flooding damage.  
    • Know your location. FEMA officials say it is imperative you become familiar with the location of your home or business. Ask neighbors if they have had problems with flooding from storm surge. Find out how high above sea level your location is. The more you know about your location, the better prepared you will be in case of a storm surge, tropical storm, or hurricane.  

    Before and After Storm Surge, Call SERVPRO

    The water and winds of a storm surge can be devastating, but thankfully, modern weather forecasting allows property owners to prepare. SERVPRO can help with these preparations, providing roof tarping and board-up services, and after the surge subsides, reach out to SERVPRO professionals for emergency water extraction and water damage cleanup and restoration. If you discover mold in your home or business after water damage occurs, SERVPRO can help. Technicians will thoroughly inspect and assess your property for signs of mold and effectively clean, repair, and remediate the mold damage.

    With 2250 SERVPRO locations throughout the United States and Canada, reach out to learn more about the numerous services available, including specialty cleaning services, general cleaning services, document restoration, and more. Each SERVPRO offers 24-hour emergency services, including holidays and weekends. Reach out today. 

    To learn more about SERVPRO and the cleanup and restoration industry, please visit our FAQ and Glossary.

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