Washington, DC - May 21, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that, after his push, the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) will create the first-ever storm surge warning maps to better predict the height of rising tides and provide more time for evacuations from these sudden and dangerous waves of water. This move will be critical to individual residents and local emergency managers. In the past, NOAA has issued warning maps for tropical storms, hurricanes and tornadoes, but no such warning system exists for storm surges. According to NOAA, storm surges are often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thirty-two people in New York State tragically drowned as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Loss of life was greatest on Staten Island where twenty-four residents died from Superstorm Sandy, many as a result of a storm surge that there was little warning for. Schumer today explained that NOAA’s new storm surge warning maps will help highlight areas where inundation from storm surge can occur, and to what extent.
“During Sandy, Staten Island, Rockaway and the South Shore of Long Island were slammed with a storm surge that had all the power and fatal results of a tsunami. We all saw the devastating impact a storm surge can have, which is why these new storm surge maps and warning systems that highlight the life-threatening risk of remaining within these vulnerable areas during a storm are so essential,” said Schumer. “For the first time ever, NOAA will issue storm surge maps to alert residents of at-risk areas during a hurricane, giving them time to prepare and evacuate if needed. These life-saving maps will help residents understand how to proceed before a storm hits.”
Schumer today announced that, beginning with the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC) will issue the Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map for areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts at risk of storm surge from a tropical cyclone. According to NOAA, the maps will highlight geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and how high above ground the water could reach in those areas. The maps will show inundation levels that have a ten percent chance of being exceeded and can therefore be thought of as representing a reasonable worst-case scenario. The maps can now be found on the NHC website http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
According to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC), storm surge poses a significant threat for drowning. Six inches of flood water can knock over an adult and two feet of rushing water can carry a vehicle away. Tropical storms, major hurricanes and post-tropical cyclones can cause storm surge.
According to CDC, thirty-two people in New York drowned as a result of Superstorm Sandy. Overall, forty people drowned as a result of the storm. According to NHC, at least 1500 individuals lost their lives during Hurricane Katrina, with many as a result of storm surge.
In a letter to NOAA last year, Schumer recommended that the agency update and reconfigure the storm usage modeling in order to give surge predictions to local emergency managers well in advance of an expected storm. Schumer also recommended the agency to implement explicitly storm surge graphics and high-resolution mapping tools to illustrate the impact of storm surge.