Beginning with the 2017 hurricane season, the National Weather Service (NWS) will issue storm surge watches and warnings to highlight areas along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean that have a significant risk of life-threatening water inundation from a tropical system.
Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a tropical cyclone, and it can occur at different times and at different locations from a storm’s hazardous winds. In addition, while most coastal residents can remain in their homes and be safe from a tropical cyclone’s winds, evacuations are generally needed to keep people safe from storm surge. Having separate warnings for these two hazards should provide emergency managers, the media, and the general public better guidance on the hazards they face when tropical cyclones threaten.
According to the press release from the NWS, The storm surge watch/warning areas will be determined by a collaborative process between the National Hurricane Center (NHC) and local NWS Weather Forecast Offices. A graphic depicting the watch and warning areas will be available on the NHC website (www.hurricanes.gov) whenever these watches/warnings are in effect. In addition to the graphic, the watch and warning areas will be included in Hurricane Local Statements issued by NWS Forecast Offices, and in the NHC Public Advisory.
A Storm Surge Warning will be issued when the danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours, in association with an ongoing or potential tropical cyclone. The warning may be issued earlier when other conditions, such as the onset of tropical storm-force winds, are expected to limit the time available to take protective actions for surge (e.g., evacuations). The warning may also be issued for locations not expected to receive life-threatening inundation, but which could potentially be isolated by inundation in adjacent areas.
A Storm Surge Watch will be put into effect when the possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours, in association with an ongoing or potential tropical system.
The Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map, which became operational in 2016, will continue to be issued in 2017. This product provides quantitative information on the storm surge hazard associated with tropical cyclones, highlighting geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and the height above ground that the water could reach. The map depicts inundation levels that have a 10 percent chance of being exceeded, which can be thought of as representing a reasonable worst-case scenario for any individual location.
Storm surge watches and warnings will only be issued for the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of the continental United States, and only during ongoing or potential tropical cyclone events for areas that have the potential for life-threatening coastal inundation.
For WeatherNation: Meteorologist Mace Michaels