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Storm Surge - Windows to the Universe

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Storm surge pushing ocean water ashore during a hurricane
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Courtesy of US Navy and National Weather Service

Storm Surge

One of the most dangerous parts of a hurricane isnít the rain or the wind. Itís the flooding caused by storm surge.

As a hurricane or other tropical storm moves towards a coast, it can cause sea level to rise higher than normal. The sea level rise only lasts a short time, usually just a few hours, but it can cause lots of damage. Towns along the coast may be totally underwater. Huge ocean waves destroy docks, houses, roads, and erode beaches.

Most storm surge is caused when a stormís winds push ocean water towards the land. The water is pushed onto land as the storm moves towards the land. Some storm surge is caused by low pressure of the storm. When storm surge happens at high tide, there is even more flooding.

Scientists use a computer model to predict how much storm surge will happen during a storm. They look at the stormís winds, the path of the storm, the shape of the coast and the shallow ocean bottom to figure out how much storm surge may happen.

Last modified March 12, 2009 by Lisa Gardiner.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF