Connecticut shoreline home
(Photo: Courtesy of David E. McCarthy)

Imagine a wall of water gushing down your street. That can happen when a storm surge pushes ocean water onto shore.

Knabb: “It’s often hard for people to envision the ocean coming onto normally dry ground and taking structures completely off their foundations, but that’s what heavy water with battering waves can do.”

Rick Knabb of The Weather Channel says storm surge is often the deadliest hazard of a storm. According to the National Hurricane Center, over the past 50 years, storm surges caused nearly half of all deaths from Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms.

This year the National Weather Service created a new alert system for Atlantic and Gulf Coast storm surges. It’s in addition to the existing hurricane alerts. That’s because storm surge and hurricane winds do not always happen at the same time. And the areas at risk can be surprisingly large.

Knabb: “In many hurricane scenarios storm surge could come five, ten, fifteen, twenty, or even twenty-five miles inland.”

As global warming causes sea levels to rise and hurricanes to intensify, storm surge will likely become even more deadly. Knabb’s advice is to pay attention to the warnings and evacuate when the authorities say to.

Reporting credit: Rosie Simon/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Bruce Lieberman, a long-time journalist, has covered climate change science, policy, and politics for nearly two decades. A newspaper reporter for 20 years, Bruce worked for The San Diego Union-Tribune...