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Stay Ahead of Storm Surges with Emergency Management

Anna Kotlabova
. 4 min read
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), storm surges are “often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane”.

What is a storm surge?

A “storm surge is the abnormal rise in [water levels] ... during a storm”, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A storm surge is “measured as the height of the water above the normal predicted astronomical tide."
Storm surges are primarily caused by the winds of a storm pushing water ashore. The size of a storm surge is therefore determined by a combination of factors, such as the storm’s path, size, intensity, and speed, to name a few. 

Where do storm surges occur?

Storm surges can occur whenever there is a storm close to large bodies of water. 
However, the frequency and severity of storm surges are higher in locations that have tropical or extratropical storm seasons and have certain types of topography and bathymetry.
As such, areas that are typically hard hit by storm surges include the Southern and Eastern coastlines of the US, Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Northern Australia, and the Caribbean.

How dangerous are storm surges?

According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), storm surges are “often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane."
Storm surges often exceed heights of 20 feet and can cause extensive damage, particularly to low lying areas. 
One of the most famous and damaging storm surges was the one caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which reached heights of over 28 feet. Hurricane Katrina killed 1,836 people and caused over $125 billion in damage.

How to monitor storm surge news

With more tropical and extratropical storms occurring, we are seeing more storm surges too. As such, monitoring and forecasting these events has become more crucial. 
Thanks to developments in meteorology and technology, we are now able to predict, track and warn people ahead of storm surges. The majority of this information is freely available online and many of the sources are updated in near real-time. 
Some useful US sources for monitoring storm surges include NOAA’s National Storm Surge Hazard Maps and the National Hurricane Center.
For larger organizations, a platform like WatchKeeper is the best way to stay ahead of storm surge risks. Users can set up custom alerts which notify them of storm surge watches and warnings. Users are able to visualize storms in real-time, coordinate team actions ahead of time, and much more – all in one platform.

What to do when a storm surge is expected

It is especially important during hurricane season to monitor storm situations and be aware of any storm surge watches or warnings that have been issued. Such warnings will be the first sign that people or property may be at risk of damage caused by storm surges. 
Even before hurricane season begins, it is best practice to ensure adequate coverage by comprehensive flood insurance. Flood insurance is typically not included under standard home insurance policies. There are also steps that everyone can take themselves in advance of a storm. These include moving valuable items and electrical and heating systems to higher levels within a building. Using sandbags can be useful as a flood protection measure as well. 
As a storm approaches, everyone should follow the advice of the authorities. People should evacuate if directed to and ensure that emergency supplies and plans have been organized in advance. WatchKeeper provides a free Hurricane Guide that contains the most useful information sources to monitor and advice on how to act before, during and after a hurricane to keep everyone as safe as possible.  

How to respond following a storm surge

After a storm surge, it is important that everyone not return to their homes until the authorities have declared that it is safe to do so. Buildings need to be declared structurally sound before people can safely enter. Whether walking or driving, no one should attempt to enter moving flood waters. 
When the authorities have given the green light for people to return to their homes, and their homes have been signed off as structurally sound, the first thing that everyone should do is document damage to the property. Where there is damage, homeowners should take notes and take extensive photographic and videographic evidence. This will be a critical element in seeking any insurance claims following a storm surge. 
To find out how WatchKeeper can help mitigate the damage caused by storm surges, or to request a demo, please visit https://watchkeeper.com or email us at info@watchkeeper.com.
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