Blog Question: What is Storm Surge?

LAVALLETTE, NJ - JAN 13: The remnants of homes destroyed after HA follow up question to my article yesterday on storm and tempest v storm surge.

Hi Allan

Thanks for your article today. Very informative as usual and I like your style which makes it all sound so simple but I know it comes from a lifetime of research.

Sally [surname and email provided]

Hi Sally,

Sorry I did not explain that yesterday but I felt the posting was getting too long but happy to answer your question separately.

It is usually described as:

“An abnormal rise in the level of the sea along a coast caused by the onshore winds of a severe cyclone.”

I have only handled a few claims in my career from this. The most graphic occurred during severe tropical cyclone Aivu which crossed the north Queensland coast in the Burdekin River delta near Home Hill which is between Townsville and Bowen on 4 April 1989. Aivu caused directly quantifiable damage estimated at $90 million in 1989 dollars (approximately $174 million in 2014 dollars).

The claims I had involved homes, mainly holiday homes and shacks, that were built down on the foreshore. Eye witnesses I interviewed advised that the pressure and wind created by the cyclone sucked the sea out from the shore about two kilometres and then as the cyclone passed over the coast and the wind direction changed, a wall of water came rushing back into land destroying everything in its path and the lightly built dwellings stood no chance and most were written off. Photos of some of the homes by the sea during Hurricane Katerina showed similar damage.

Other times the wind, rain and the pressure can simply create exceedingly high tides, which inundate low lying areas, but without the enormous force that was evident during Aivu.

 I hope that explains it.

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