Hurricane Irma Storm Surges: What Is A Storm Surge?

Storm surges can be very fatal to people living in coastal areas during a hurricane. Gov. Rick Scott put particular emphasis on the dangers involved with a hurricane surge. But what is exactly is a storm surge? Officials and storm experts can warn you of the danger of “storm surge,” but to truly play it safe, it’s best to know what exactly they’re talking about.

What is a storm surge?

According to the National Hurricane Center, a storm surge is “an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides.
Storm surges were largely to blame for the deaths and destruction brought about by Hurricane Katrina (2005). Roughly 1500 people lost their lives during the storm and and “many of those deaths occurred directly, or indirectly, as a result of storm surge,” also according to the National Hurricane Center.
Don’t confuse a storm surge with a storm tide. A storm tide, which is defined as a water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. However, storm tide can be very dangerous, as some can reach more than 20 feet in length and cause extreme flooding.

How has storm surges affected Florida during Hurricane Irma?

At around 9:10 A.M., Hurricane Irma first made contact with the U.S. in the Cudjoe Key. The National Hurricane Center quickly responded to this disturbance with “Hurricane #Irma makes landfall at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys.”
The NHC also wrote: ““The center of Hurricane Irma made landfall at Cudjoe Key in the lower Florida Keys at 9:10 am EDT. A gust to 106 mph (171 km/h) was just reported at the National Key Deer Refuge in Big Pine Key.”
The biggest reason why people are dying because of drowning in the storm is because of storm surges. One to fifteen foot storm surges are expected along the west coast of Florida, from Marco Island to the Florida Keys.
“Storm surge flooding of 10-15 ft is now expected along the SW Florida coast,” the NHC wrote in a tweet. “This is a dire and life-threatening situation.”
The NHC’s 5 p.m. advisory issued a storm surge warning for:

  • South Santee River southward to Jupiter Inlet
  • North Miami Beach southward around the Florida peninsula to the Ochlockonee River
  • Florida Keys
  • Tampa Bay

Look below to see a map of potential storm surge flooding zones…
Florida Gov. Scott said Sunday that “we’re going to do everything we can to keep every person in our state alive and protected,”and “I know the winds are going to be very devastating and life threatening. But I’m also very concerned about the storm surge.”
Scott added that, “People don’t realize it’s going to come into your house, it’s going to fill up maybe your entire first floor, and then it’s going to flow out. So I don’t know how you’re going to survive that. So you just have to think about, you know, you’ve got to get as high ground as you can and, and, and just pray,” Scott said.
The governor warned that Irma “is like” Hurricane Andrew, which hit Florida 25 years prior. However, he called Irma “Andrew for a whole state.”
Scott has called out 7,000 national guard members to the area. But he mentioned one significant challenge…
The governor said, “It didn’t just impact one coast where we could position assets on the other coast. And so it’s going to … take us a little bit longer to do everything we care to do after a storm because we have to bring the assets south. Some of them are even out of state because we couldn’t … pre-position them here.”

Hurricane Irma Marco Island Photos: Aftermath Videos & Pictures
Hurricane Irma Marco Island Photos: Aftermath Videos & Pictures
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