By: Ron Haynes
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HOW DO I PREPARE FOR STORM SURGE
Storm surge has been defined as the abnormal rise of water which is generated by a hurricane or storm over the astronomical tide levels. Storm surge is different from storm tide which is the water level rising due to the combination of storm surge and regular tide. Naturally, the rise in water can cause extreme flooding for coastal areas. Storm surge is caused by water which is being pushed toward the shore by the force of wind from a storm. There are many factors that can affect the amount of storm surge but one factor is the slope of the continental shelf. A shallow slope will act as a ramp and produce a greater storm surge than a steep shelf.
The world record for storm surge was generated by The Bathurst Bay Cyclone, also known as Tropical Cyclone Mahina, which struck Australia on March 5, 1899. The storm surge was recorded between 43 and 48 feet high which were generated by a Category 5 storm which sustained winds of 175 mph. After the storm, both fish and dolphins were found on top of 49-foot cliffs.
Along with storm surge comes damage from wave action. One gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. One cubic yard of water weighs approximately 1,700 pounds. Structures being pounded by this type of weight over and over can be devastating. Wave action also creates currents that can cause severe erosion which can affect not only buildings but also coastal highways. Buildings that may be able to withstand hurricane-force winds may not be able to survive if their foundations are eroded.
If you live in an area that will be subject to storm surge, you should prepare ahead of time prior to the storm. Storm surge can begin to rise a day before the storm actually hits cutting off escape routes on low lying highways. Statistically, the death tolls from the ten deadliest U.W. hurricanes were due to storm surge. It is a good idea to check your house for any potential vulnerability to flooding and have that repaired. Having the supplies on hand to make sandbags or having actual sandbags can keep you home from flooding. Know how to turn off the electricity and gas to your house. Make sure you store all your important papers at a high level in case flooding occurs. Make sure you have an emergency kit and a plan. Your emergency kit should be portable and it would be a good idea to have your important papers in something that can be easily taken with you.
Once the storm is approaching, you should check your emergency supplies levels and make sure you have the proper medication, a radio, flashlight and batteries. If you have to evacuate, take your emergency kit, emergency supply kit and important papers with you. Make sure your car is topped off with fuel and have a plan for evacuation. Share this plan with your family in case you are separated and have a meeting place planned ahead.
If you were unable to evacuate or decide not to and the storm surge begins, make sure you stay inside in a location where you are protected from the weather. Monitor the storm’s progress for updates and warnings. If you decide to leave, be careful where you drive. Follow evacuation routes set up by officials and do not drive through floodwaters. If the storm surge occurs during the winter months, be aware of the risks of hypothermia from cold water as well as the risks of drowning from running water.
Many people may have storm surge misconceptions and think they can survive the storm surge so they don’t evacuate. These misconceptions are as follows:
- You can call 911 for them to come to rescue you if it gets too bad. Rescue officials will not be able to access your area if the water has already risen 6-10 feet and inland areas make it hard for boats to navigate.
- You can just stuff towels under the door jam and buy yourself some time. In a matter of minutes, the storm surge or wave action will likely burst open the door where you find yourself suddenly in three or four feet of water and may even be knocked off your feet.
- You can still maneuver around in rushing water. The speed of the water rushing into your home can be equivalent to a Class III or IV rapid so you will be unable to maneuver.
- You will have enough warning. The surge is usually not a wall of water but rather a rapid rise of water of several feet over a period of minutes so it can be very unexpected.
- You can always outrun the storm surge in your car. Because storm surge happens so fast, if you wait until there is an inch of water in your house, the water level will likely be over a foot by the time you get your car out. If the water is already a foot high, a typical storm surge moving at ten to fifteen miles per hour could sweep your car away and if others are trying to evacuate at that same time, traffic could be a serious issue.
If you have damage to your home caused by a storm surge, you need to make sure you submit a claim as soon as possible. You have three years from the date the storm hits to file a hurricane claim and for flood damage, you need to file a proof of loss within 60 days of the flood. If you have questions regarding what caused the damage to my home, wind or water, call Christopher Ligori & Associates for a free claims review. If you don’t know if you have enough coverage, we offer free policy review as well.