When a hurricane strikes the coast, wind speed is only one piece of the story – storm surge does far more damage in many instances.

But storm surge maps have been nebulous in the realm of public understanding, leaving residents questioning or unaware of the worst threats of a tropical system. Now, the National Hurricane Center has a plan to make this potential threat more clear during the 2014 hurricane season.

storm surge map houston


The NHC will use new color-coded maps to simplify the dangers of storm surge to the public, according to the Associated Press. These maps will predict how far inland storm surge is expected to go, as well as how high the water will rise.

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Since storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane – the NHC states it’s the biggest cause of death in many instances during past storms – meteorologists are hopeful the new maps will lower death tolls.

“If this helps encourage more people in surge-prone areas to evacuate, it will be a slam-dunk success,” said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman.

Reuters reports these maps will be issued 48 hours before landfall and updated every six hours.

However, some questions still remain. For one, Erdman said, storm surge forecasting is not an exact science, and can quickly change as storms strengthens.

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The accuracy of the storm surge forecasts will be closely watched, starting with the first landfalling tropical system. If the new maps are unsuccessful at relaying the threats of storm surge, false alarms could lead to public complacency, Erdman added.

Reprint from Weather.com