Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center hope new color-coded maps they’re trying out this year will simplify two important points about storm surge for coastal residents: how far from the beach the water will spread and how high that water will rise.
Storm surge – the ocean coming onto normally dry land – is one of the deadliest and most damaging hazards during a hurricane, but it’s hard to predict and hard to explain.
Literally drawing a picture for people, highlighting the places most vulnerable to flooding, should help, Hurricane Center Director Rick Knabb said at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando.
“When emergency managers tell you to evacuate, it will be a lot clearer why they’re telling you to go,” Knabb said.
The storm surge graphics will be posted on the hurricane center’s website. They will be issued when a hurricane or tropical storm watch is first posted for any part of the Gulf or East coasts, 48 hours before tropical storm-force winds are expected. Then they’ll be updated every six hours throughout the storm.
Separate storm-surge warnings, similar to current tropical-storm or hurricane warnings, will be rolled out in 2015.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1. The 2013 season tallied 14 tropical and subtropical storms, but just two became hurricanes and only one storm, Tropical Storm Andrea, made landfall in the United States.
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