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NOAA team sees Florence and Michael storm surge devastation first-hand

Did storm surge watches & warnings make a difference?

Hurricanes Florence and Michael barrelled through portions of the southeastern United States in September and October. These storms occurred within four weeks of each other and both brought life-threatening storm surge.

GOES-East satellite image of Hurricane Florence making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018
GOES-East satellite image of Hurricane Florence making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018 (NOAA)Download

Soon after landfall, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham, Storm Surge Specialist Jamie Rhome, and Hurricane Specialist Unit Branch Chief Dr. Michael Brennan traveled to the hardest hit regions. Their goal was to see how storm surge watches and warnings, and the potential storm surge flooding maps issued by the hurricane center lined up with actual events. The team met with the local emergency managers who used these products to make their evacuation decisions. They also heard from people who experienced the impacts of surge and the catastrophic inland flooding.

The bottom line? The storm surge watches, warnings, and flooding maps were spot on and saved lives. Here’s the story:

National Hurricane Center warns of dangerous storm surge

In a live television briefing, NHC Deputy Director Dr. Ed Rappaport emphasizes the expected life-threatening storm surge heights from Hurricane Florence. This message would be repeated continuously during Florence and Michael.
The National Hurricane Center started issuing storm surge watches and warnings days before the hurricanes made landfall. During live television interviews, NHC Deputy Director Dr. Ed Rappaport emphasized the expected life-threatening storm surge heights associated with Hurricane Florence. This message would be repeated continuously during Florence and Michael.  (NOAA)

Hurricane Florence makes landfall in North Carolina

NHC Storm Surge Specialist Jamie Rhome measures the impact of storm surge onto a heavily damaged home in New Bern, North Carolina. Sept. 26, 2018.
When Hurricane Florence crossed the North Carolina coast on Sept. 14, 2018, it brought hurricane-force winds and, as forecast, strong storm surge. NHC Storm Surge Specialist Jamie Rhome measures the impact of storm surge at a heavily damaged home in New Bern, North Carolina. Sept. 26, 2018.  (NOAA)

 

The National Hurricane Center’s storm surge flooding map called for extensive flooding at Surf City, North Carolina. Florence’s storm surge and pounding waves ripped away much of these stairs. Sept. 27, 2018
The National Hurricane Center’s storm surge flooding map called for extensive flooding at Surf City, North Carolina. Florence’s storm surge and pounding waves ripped away much of these stairs. Sept. 27, 2018 (NOAA)

Hurricane Michael strikes near Mexico Beach, Florida
 

NOAA's GOES-East captured this image of Hurricane Michael as it came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida on Oct. 10, 2018. According to the National Hurricane Center, Michael intensified before landfall with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, heavy rainfall, and deadly storm surge.
NOAA's GOES-East captured this image of Hurricane Michael as it came ashore near Mexico Beach, Florida on Oct. 10, 2018. According to the National Hurricane Center, Michael intensified before landfall with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, heavy rainfall, and deadly storm surge. (NOAA)

 

Life-threatening storm surge was forecast for areas of the Florida panhandle. This mobile home park north of the coastal highway in Mexico Beach, Florida, was washed away from the storm surge and wave impacts of Hurricane Michael, Nov. 2, 2018
Life-threatening storm surge was forecast for many areas of the Florida panhandle. This mobile home park north of the coastal highway in Mexico Beach, Florida, was washed away by the storm surge and wave impacts of Hurricane Michael. Nov. 2, 2018 (NOAA)

 

Hurricane Michael’s storm surge was so strong, it pulled apart this in-ground swimming pool in Mexico Beach, Florida  Nov. 2, 2018
Hurricane Michael’s storm surge was so strong, it pulled apart this in-ground swimming pool in Mexico Beach, Florida. Nov. 2, 2018 (NOAA)

Lessons learned

Storm surge is responsible for more deaths than any other danger associated with tropical cyclones. Unfortunately, many people living in harm’s way focus on the wind threats and fail to appreciate the destructive power of water. Thanks to the introduction of accurate storm surge watches, warnings, and flooding maps, lives can be saved. For more information check out the hurricane center's storm surge resources.

Storm surge is responsible for more deaths than any other danger associated with tropical cyclones. Unfortunately, many people living in harm’s way focus on the wind threats. But thanks to the introduction of accurate storm surge watches, warnings, and maps, lives can be saved.   

This cup and saucer somehow stayed intact as it washed out of a building on Mexico Beach, Florida, during Hurricane Michael. Nov. 2, 2018
This cup and saucer somehow stayed intact as it washed out of a building on Mexico Beach, Florida, during Hurricane Michael. Nov. 2, 2018 (NOAA)

 

 

November 9, 2018