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What is Storm Surge


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  • The high winds of a hurricane or typhoon can cause dangerous storm surge along the coast damaging property. For all your water damage restoration needs, call SERVPRO.

    During hurricane season, the term “storm surge” is used a lot. This phenomenon is one of the dangers that comes along with a hurricane. In fact, storm surges have the potential to make a hurricane even more deadly than the high winds, torrential rain, and tornado risk that already make these potentially lethal storms a danger to life and property.  

    Definition of Storm Surge 

    NOAA states storm surge is, “The abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm, measured as the height of the water above the normal predicted astronomical tide.” The surge in sea water is caused by the advancing winds of the storm pushing water onshore. If a storm approaches the shore at high tide, the storm surge will be higher than it would be during low tide. A high tide storm surge can raise water levels as high as 30 feet.  

    Why is Storm Surge so Dangerous?  

    Scientists at NOAA say, “Storm surge combined with waves can cause extensive damage.” However, there is an additional, more dangerous risk to life and property with storm surge. The waves from storm surge can cause extensive beach erosion and even destroy coastal highways, making roads impassable. The crashing waves from the rising surge will continuously pound at any obstacle until the storm subsides or the obstacle gives way. It is storm surge that is responsible for destroying boats, homes, and buildings along the coastline during a hurricane.  

    How is Storm Surge Predicted?  

    The National Hurricane Center uses a computer model called SLOSH to predict the height and severity of storm surge. The Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model was developed by the National Weather Service to estimate storm surge. It uses data from previous storms and hypotheses from predicted storms to calculate parameters for a model of the wind field, which predicts the range of the storm surge.  

    How Far Inland Can Storm Surge Go?  

    According to FEMA, storm surges, “have been known to go 25 miles inland, submerging cars and flooding houses in its path.” During Hurricane Ian in 2022, Pinellas County, Florida officials noted storm surge, “reached up to 15 feet at the coast on Fort Myers Beach and was pushed 15 miles inland. Along rivers and waterways, storm surge was pushed up to 24 miles inland, with a depth up to eight feet.”  

    What does a Five-Foot Storm Surge Mean?  

    Along the coast, residents and businesses are aware of where their property lies above or below sea level. In the simplest terms, sea level is defined as, “the height of the surface of the sea midway between the average high and low tides,” according to Merriam-Webster. Sarasota Magazine explains a five-foot storm surge clearly as, “water will be five feet above standard sea level, including tides. If a home is in the surge zone and located below 5 feet above sea level, it will flood.” 

    Trust SERVPRO® for Water Damage Restoration

    No matter what causes water damage to your home or business, SERVPRO is always available. We understand that storm surge, a hurricane, or even a leaking appliance can cause the most disastrous damage to your property. That’s why our 24-hour emergency services are available to everyone, including on weekends and holidays. Our 2250 SERVPRO locations in the United States and Canada are always open and available to serve you. For all your fire, storm, water, or mold cleanup, restoration, or construction needs, call SERVPRO.  

    For more information, please visit our FAQ and Glossary.  

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