Did you know Atlantic hurricane season starts tomorrow, June 1? Now’s the time to start preparing for hurricane season on the Gulf Coast, which lasts until November 30 each year. Knowing how hurricanes can impact your business and how to prepare puts you at an advantage in weathering the storm. When the word “hurricane” comes to mind, images of intense wind, driving rain and flying debris come to mind. There’s no doubt that homes and businesses suffer damage from these aspects of a hurricane. However, most people don’t realize the most devastating hurricane damage comes from storm surge.
What Is Storm Surge?According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), storm surge is the abnormally high rise of water due to a storm that is above the average predictable astronomical tide. Simply put, storm surge is the change in water level caused by high winds during a storm.
Basic Facts about Storm SurgeThese basic facts about storm surge show just how quickly water can become a powerfully destructive force.
- Storm surge travels inland at 10 to 15 miles an hour.
- One cubic foot of storm surge water weighs close to one ton.
- One foot of storm surge can lift your car off the road.
- Floating debris in storm surge is moving fast enough to cause extensive damage to structures.
What Kind of Damage Does Storm Surge Cause?The entire Gulf Coast region is susceptible to suffering the devastating effects of storm surge. During Hurricane Ike in 2008, storm surge traveled nearly 30 miles inland in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana, reaching levels of 10 to 15 feet and causing an estimated $22 billion in property damage. Hurricane Katrina, the most devastating hurricane ever recorded in the U.S, produced an incredible 27.8-foot storm surge on the Mississippi coast. The hurricane claimed 1,836 lives and caused $108 billion in insured losses. The total impact of Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. economy is still being studied 12 years after the storm devastated New Orleans and destroyed almost the entire Mississippi coast.
How Can I Prepare for Storm Surge?If your home or business is in the path of destructive storm surge, there is little you can do to protect your property. Placing sand bags around your property and boarding up windows may help lessen the damage, but your best to is to play it safe and heed evacuation warnings. Never assume you can ride out the storm. Storm surge hits quickly. By the time you see water inside your home or business, it could be too late. If you are under an evacuation order:
- Leave as quickly as possible to avoid traffic jams.
- Familiarize yourself with your evacuation route before you need to use it.
- Make plans to stay with friends, family, or in a motel as close to the safety zone as possible.
- Listen to authorities on the radio for possible changes to evacuation routes.