BREAKDOWN: Why storm surge can be devastating

BREAKDOWN: Why storm surge can be devastating

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane.

In the past, unfortunately, large death tolls have resulted from the rise of the ocean associated with many of the major hurricanes that have made landfall.

According to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge is an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tides.

The rise in water level can cause extreme flooding in coastal areas, particularly when storm surge coincides with normal with normal high ties, resulting in storm tides reaching up to 20 feet or more in some cases.

Storm surge is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm. The impact of surge on the low pressure associated with intense storms is minimal in comparison to the water being forced toward the shore by the wind.

Several factors influence the maximum potential storm surge for a particular location, and it is a very complex phenomenon due to the slightest changes in storm intensity, forward speed, size, angle of approach to the coast, central pressure and shape and characteristics of coastal features such as bays and estuaries.

More factors that impact storm surge are the width and slope of the continental shelf, with a shallower slope producing more storm surge than a stepper shelf.

Battering waves can add to the destruction, which may increase damage to buildings along the coast. Along with waves, currents created by the tides combine with the waves to erode beaches and coastal highways. Also, in confined harbors, the combination of storm tides, waves and currents can damage marinas and boats.

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