Storm Surge - 10 Tips to Be Ready

Storm surges are a significant and potentially life-threatening event that can occur during a hurricane or severe storm. They can cause catastrophic damage to coastal communities and lead to significant loss of life. As a result, it is essential to be prepared and have a plan in place to protect yourself and your loved ones. Being prepared can help you stay calm and focused during a storm surge and increase your chances of survival. In this context, it is important to know what a storm surge is, what causes it, and how to stay safe during one. By following some simple guidelines and tips, you can minimize the risk and protect yourself and your family from the dangers of a storm surge. In this article, we will discuss 10 tips to help you be ready for a storm surge and increase your chances of staying safe during a severe weather event.

Hurricane Sandy, Atlantic City, NJ, 2012. Photograph by Tom Mihalek, Reuters
Hurricane Sandy, Atlantic City, NJ, 2012. Photograph by Tom Mihalek, Reuters
  1. Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. It poses a significant threat for drowning. A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles—including pickups and SUVs.
  2. Storm surge can cause water levels to rise quickly and flood large areas—sometimes in just minutes, and you could be left with no time to take action if you haven’t already evacuated as instructed.
  3. Storm surge values do not correspond well to the hurricane wind categories (of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale) that range from 1 to 5. These categories are based only on winds and do not account for storm surge.
  4. Tropical storms, category 1 or 2 hurricanes, major (category 3 to 5) hurricanes, and post-tropical cyclones can all cause life-threatening storm surge.
  5. Storm surge can also occur with non-tropical storms like Nor’easters and other winter storms.
  6. Many U.S. Gulf and East Coast areas are vulnerable to storm surge, including areas up to several miles inland from the coastline. Find out today, well before a hurricane ever approaches, if you live in a storm surge evacuation zone.
  7. Storm surge can occur before, during, or after the center of a storm passes through an area. Storm surge can sometimes cut off evacuation routes, so do not delay leaving if an evacuation is ordered for your area.
  8. During the peak of a storm surge event, it is unlikely that emergency responders will be able to reach you if you are in danger.
  9. Even if your community is not directly affected by storm surge, it could experience other hazards from the storm and face dangerous conditions such as impassable roads, water and sewage problems, and power outages. If power remains on, downed electrical wires can pose an electrocution risk.
  10. Weather conditions and the forecast can change. Local officials could issue evacuation or other instructions for many reasons. Always follow the instructions of local officials.

Know Your Maps, Know Your Zone!

The Potential Storm Surge Flooding map is different from FEMA flood insurance rate maps and hurricane evacuation zone maps.

  • You do not have to live in a floodplain to experience storm surge from a hurricane or other storm.
  • Evacuation zones can be established for many public safety reasons and differ from the areas shown on this map.

Find out today if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone!