Study: Many Coastal Residents Unaware of Storm Surge Risk

Storm surge is the most dangerous and damaging aspect of hurricanes, but a new study indicates that many people are unaware of this fact.

According to a recent survey of U.S. coastal residents conducted by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a significant number of people did not know their own vulnerability to a storm surge from a major hurricane. Researchers say every city along the Gulf or East Coast of the United States is at risk of storm surge.

“Storm surge accounted for about half of the losses since 1970,” hurricane center deputy director Ed Rappaport said. “Nearly all of those occurred in Katrina, which was the latest example of an infrequent but catastrophic hurricane storm surge even that kills hundreds or even thousands of people.”

Floods from excessive rainfall rank second in causing loss of life in hurricanes, according to Rappaport.

Most hurricanes tend to form in August and September, and federal scientists are predicting as many as 10 hurricanes this season. That means 30 million Americans living along the Gulf and Southeast coasts are vulnerable to storm surge.
A “major” hurricane is one that is a Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, with wind speeds exceeding 110 miles per hour.

Out of the 1,200 people interviewed for the survey, 40 percent said they’re not likely to get storm surge damage from a major hurricane. Every person interviewed lives in a storm-surge-prone area. In addition, 34 percent of respondents believed that wind was more likely to cause loss of life than storm surge, and 31 percent thought that hurricane-spawned tornadoes were more of a threat to life than storm surge.

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