When powerful hurricanes make landfall, they bring with them a host of destructive forces, and one of the most perilous among them is the storm surge.
Storm surges are rapidly rising walls of water that result from the intense winds and low atmospheric pressure associated with hurricanes. These surges pose significant threats to coastal regions, causing widespread flooding, property damage, and loss of life.
What is Storm Surge?
A storm surge occurs when a hurricane's powerful winds push large volumes of seawater toward the shoreline. The low atmospheric pressure associated with the hurricane also contributes to the surge, allowing water to pile up higher than the surrounding sea level. The combination of wind and low pressure creates a domino effect, resulting in a sudden and massive influx of water onto the coast.
Dangers of Storm Surges
Coastal Flooding: Storm surges can cause severe coastal flooding, often inundating low-lying areas that are densely populated. The rapidly rising water can breach seawalls, flood barriers, and other protective measures, putting people, buildings, and infrastructure at risk.
Powerful Currents: The forceful nature of storm surges creates powerful currents that can sweep away anything in their path. These currents are capable of causing significant damage to structures, vehicles, and even dragging people into the turbulent waters.
Erosion and Destruction: Storm surges can erode beaches and dunes, causing significant damage to coastal ecosystems. The immense force of the surging water can also lead to the destruction of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure near the shoreline.
Hurricane Ian Storm Surge
Hurricane Ian, a category 4 storm, made landfall in the coastal region on September 28th, 2022, leaving behind a trail of destruction primarily attributed to its storm surge.
As Hurricane Ian approached the coast, the storm surge reached a staggering 15 feet above normal sea level. This caused extensive flooding in coastal cities, resulting in the displacement of thousands of residents and severe damage to homes and businesses.
The force of the storm surge overwhelmed the coastal defenses, breaching seawalls and protective barriers. The flooding caused significant structural damage to buildings near the shoreline, leading to the collapse of several structures.
The storm surge, combined with heavy rainfall, caused rivers and estuaries to overflow their banks. Inland areas experienced unprecedented flooding, with water levels rising far beyond what was anticipated, resulting in further destruction of properties and infrastructure.
Hurricane Katrina Storm Surge
Hurricane Katrina, one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in U.S. history, made landfall on August 29, 2005. While the hurricane's high winds and torrential rains wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast, it was the storm surge that proved to be the most devastating and deadly aspect of the disaster.
The immense power and destructive force of Hurricane Katrina's storm surge forever altered the coastal landscape and left behind a harrowing tale of destruction and human tragedy.
When Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Buras, Louisiana, it unleashed a monstrous storm surge that overwhelmed the region's protective levee systems. The surge reached an astonishing 28 feet in some areas, submerging entire communities and causing widespread devastation.
The vulnerable city of New Orleans, situated below sea level, bore the brunt of the storm surge, with floodwaters breaching the city's levees and flooding nearly 80% of its land.