A storm surge is created when the winds of a storm push the ocean water so quickly that it “piles up” and becomes higher than the normal sea level. This surge then progresses up the beach and inland areas. The resulting flooding of the coastal areas can be devastating to life and property. During extreme storms that have come ashore during high tide, storm surge heights of 40 feet have been experienced.
Although there are many variables in storm surge development, improvements in forecasting hurricanes and tropical storms, and issuing early warnings have become vital in saving lives. This is especially important since both the occurrence of these dangerous storms and the coastal populations continue to escalate. With the improvements in forecasting, people now have more warning and are able to evacuate way ahead of the arrival of the storm. However, those who have not followed evacuation orders in a timely manner may find their paths blocked by downed trees or power lines. The National Weather Service has developed a computerized model called SLOSH, which stands for Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes. SLOSH is used to estimate the height of a storm surge using data which includes track data, atmospheric pressure, storm size, pressure and forward speed.