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Storm surge: One of hurricane season's most powerful threats

Posted at 7:43 PM, May 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-29 19:43:03-04

(WTXL) — When it comes to hurricanes, we think of fierce winds. But there's one element that is more deadly and destructive than any other part of a hurricane.

Storm surge is the deadliest part of a hurricane. That often means battering waves and walls of water piling onshore, then taking everything within its path.

Satellite imagery of Mexico Beach in 2018 following Hurricane Michael's historic landfall shows houses and neighborhoods destroyed with debris everywhere you look.

The storm also claimed several lives.

Almost 50 percent of deaths occur in a hurricane or tropical storm because of storm surge. Compare that to fierce high winds, which are blamed for less than 10 percent of deaths.

So what's happening?

Storm surge happens when very strong winds from tropical storms and hurricanes propel water from the gulf onto the shore. The eye of the hurricane also thrusts water onshore.

The National Hurricane Center will issue a storm surge watch before an event well in advance of potentially life-threatening conditions.