Come Hurricanes and High Waters

National Hurricane Center Debuts Storm Surge Website


NOAA's storm surge risk maps.

NOAA's storm surge risk maps, available on NOAA's new storm surge website, are an education tool aimed at providing a national snapshot of maximum potential storm surge resulting from hurricanes.

Download here. (Credit: NOAA.)

Storm surge is the deadliest hazard associated with hurricanes. Yet, for most people, it is an unfamiliar term. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami wants to change that, and it has created a new website to help.

The new site, a one-stop shop for storm surge data, was designed to arm people with potentially life-saving information they need before the start of hurricane season (June 1) and during a hurricane threat.

Stormy Weather Can Bring Rising Waters

Storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level that accompanies a hurricane or other intense storm; its height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of a strong storm.

“Storm surge is not just a coastal event,” said Jamie Rhome, storm surge team leader at the National Hurricane Center. “In reality, storm surge can go well inland with devastating consequences.” 

Storm surge is strongly dictated by a hurricane’s track, forward motion, maximum wind speed and tide levels. Changes in any of these parameters will significantly alter the amount of storm surge — such information was not easy to track until the development of this new website.

New Site Allows Users to Surf Surge Resources

The new website is part of an ongoing effort by the National Hurricane Center to improve access and understanding of storm surge products and services.  

It allows visitors to access data customized to their community. For instance, users can access an interactive risk tool powered by Google Earth to help determine whether their community is vulnerable to storm surge.

Another tool allows visitors to access visualizations of the NHC’s SLOSH model for past hurricanes to see how storm surge affected their communities. The site also provides critical information about local evacuation zones.

The site will prove especially useful when a hurricane approaches the U.S. coastline. The “Storm Surge Products” section includes a decision support tool (or “wedge”) that will take visitors step-by-step through storm surge forecasts and information as a storm moves toward land.

“While we can’t tell people exactly how much water will be at their doorstep, we can give them enough information to make an educated decision about whether the risk is high enough to take action,” Rhome said.

Learn more about storm surge and its potential impact on your community by visiting

Posted November 15, 2010 NOAA logo.