STORM SURGE FORECASTS

Since 1972, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale has been used to define such things as storm categories (1-5), wind speeds, central pressures, and ocean rises as the storm surge.

Hurricane Andrew produced a typical Saffir-Simpson storm surge.

The Saffir-Simpson scale will no longer include the storm surge in 2010. A study of recent hurricanes by NOAA scientists has revealed a flaw in categorizing storm surge flood heights with storm categories.
In 2008, Category 2 Hurricane IKE produced a storm surge near 20 feet in Texas. This was dangerously higher than the 6-8 ft. surge listed on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
On the other hand, in 2004 Category 4 Hurricane Charley came ashore near Punta Gorda on Florida’s Gulf coast with 145 mph winds but only a storm surge of about 7 ft, well below the Saffir-Simpson height of 12-18 feet.
The storm surge of each hurricane is dependent of many things other than its wind speed. As the storm approaches a shore line, the wind direction, speed of the forward motion, the geographical terrain, and the depth of coastal waters will have a bearing on storm surge values. For these reasons, we must prepare on the basis of specialized predictions that have to be made for each particular hurricane situation.

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