Storm Surge: What it Means
Along the coast, storm surge is often the greatest threat from a hurricane. It is primarily caused by extremely high winds as those winds push the ocean water on shore. As a result a huge wave is formed. Keep in mind though; storm surge is not a tidal wave or a tsunami which is caused by earthquakes or underwater volcanic activity.
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana. That storm is a prime example of the damage and devastation that can be caused by surge. At least 1500 people lost their lives during Katrina and many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge.
There are several factors that can impact storm surge. One is the continental shelf. A shallow shelf will likely produce a greater storm surge than a steeper shelf. A storm that hits a coastline with a shallow continental shelf could produce a 30-foot surge, compared to the same storm hitting a coastline with a steep shelf, which may produce a nine-foot surge. The size of the storm will also impact storm surge and sometimes water during storm surge can be as much as 100 miles wide. It can last for an extended period of time and can sometimes last longer than 12 hours.
Based on the severity of the storm and the depth of the water, storm surge can easily be predicted. That's why it's important, especially here in Chatham County, to understand just how potentially dangerous storm surge can be. Please view the storm surge map and see where your house is located. If your area is ordered to evacuate, heed the warning.