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Hurricane Storm Surge: Risk of Dangerous Flooding

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Storm surge is the biggest threat when it comes to hurricanes and tropical systems making landfall, according to Dennis Feltgen a meteorologist and spokesperson from the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Storm surge is defined as the "Abnormal rise of water generated by a storm, over and above the predicted tides," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, (NOAA.)

Hurricane storm surges can be challenging to predict because many factors affect how high a storm tide will be. Expert Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said that angle of the storm, intensity, geography and bathymetry, which are measurements of water depth in different places in a body of water, all contribute to determining storm surge. Two days prior to a storm making landfall, meteorologists will take into account all the factors and run a simulation to see where the storm surge is likely to occur.

"The simulation is not run earlier than two days because the model, needs an accurate projected path," Kottlowski said.

Storm surges are dangerous because the water can be very powerful. Structures that are not sturdy could be swept away by water. Kottlowski warns that buildings that are built on pillars could be helpful, but if they are not secured properly, they may not offer much protection from rising water from the storm surge.

Hurricane storm surges have caused millions in damages and resulted in many deaths in recent years.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina had a storm surge between 20 to 30 feet. The storm surge damaged levees that protected the city, sending in rushing flood waters. More than 1,500 people lost their lives as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

Most recently Superstorm Sandy in 2012 also had a significant storm surge. Battery Park in New York City had a storm surge of 13 feet, becoming their highest storm surge on record. The previous record was 10 feet in 1821.

Feltgen said a main issue with Sandy was the amount of flooding.

"Last year, the problem with Sandy was water, water, water," he said.

Story by Staff Writer Molly Cochran.

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