NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Storm Surge and Coastal Inundation
Venice, LA, still with at least two to three feet of water two weeks after Hurricane Katrina's storm surge - 2005Damage to manufactured and mobile homes at Surfside Beach, SC, after Hurricane Hugo's storm surge - 1989Hard Rock Casino barge (Biloxi, MS) completely destroyed during Hurricane Katrina - 2005Treasure Bay Casino (Biloxi, MS) was moved completely off its moorings by the storm surge from Hurricane Katrina - 2005Damage caused by the Galveston Hurricane and storm surge: the greatest natural disaster in terms of loss of life in U.S. history (6,000 to 8,000 individuals died in this event) - 1900House in North Carolina damaged by 15-foot storm surge that came with Hurricane Floyd - 1999Damage to beach front homes on Dauphin Island, AL, due to storm surge from Hurricane Katrina - 2005Storm surge from Hurricane Carol lashes Rhode Island Yacht Club - 1969


Storm Surge

Preparing coastal communities for storm surge flooding

Forecasts and Warnings



Forecasting Storm Surge and Coastal Inundation

Forecasters at the National Weather Service (NWS) and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) use a variety of tools in predicting storm surge and coastal inundation. These tools include water level observations, weather forecasts of the storm, satellite data, and storm surge models. The particular tools used depend on what type of event is expected.

The Role of a Forecaster

Forecasts and warnings must be issued for a wide variety of threats to public safety and property, including forecasts of storm surge and coastal inundation. Advances in technology have had a substantial impact on forecasting – improved observational capabilities and the development of new models have significantly improved accuracy.

Storm Surge rolling in over land.Forecasters use multiple computer programs and analysis techniques to analyze the latest weather data and computer model forecasts. From this data, a forecaster uses training, prior experience, and his or her expert judgment to create forecasts for an area. For storm surge predictions, NWS experts take the lead in analyzing the storm and its surge-producing potential. Local forecasters then follow the guidance of these experts and create regional forecasts that describe the specific, local impacts of an event. These forecasters work around the country in local weather forecast offices.

Storm surge forecasting begins when NWS experts assess the probability of a storm striking land, and then use storm surge model output and water level observations to assess the potential threat. They forward the results of their analyses to emergency managers, media, and the public using various forecast products. A local weather forecast office will add additional local specific conditions.

One of the main tools forecasters use to predict storm surge is the output from computational models. NOAA's Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model aids in the prediction of tropical cyclone storm surge. Forecasters access large libraries of hypothetical storm simulations, create predictions based upon the specific weather forecasts, and assess hundreds of permutations of storms for forecast uncertainties. For extratropical storms, larger scale storm surge models assess potential water levels. Additionally, forecasters also evaluate wave predictions, as they can significantly contribute to storm damage.

Once forecasters have evaluated data from observations, model outputs, and other sources, they write the forecast. Forecasters also provide expert guidance to decision makers, emergency responders, and the media.