MIAMI (AP) – If tropical weather approaches the U.S. next year, coastal residents will see new, separate warnings about storm surge in addition to those about winds, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
The separate storm-surge warnings will begin with the 2015 hurricane season and should provide emergency managers and the public with better information about tropical weather hazards, officials said.
“Historically, storm surge is the primary killer in a hurricane,” said Jamie Rhome, the center’s storm surge specialist. “The largest loss of life in a hurricane comes from water and flooding, not from wind as much.”
Storm surge can strike at different times and in different places than a storm’s winds.
The center already releases warnings on tropical storm- and hurricane-force winds, and it recently has focused on improving public awareness about storm surge.
Color-coded maps debuted this year to show where and how high water could rise as storms approach land, and an online tool launched last month shows coastal vulnerability to storm surge during a variety of hurricane scenarios.
Rhome said both tools are meant to help coastal residents prepare for the inevitable – storm surge is predicted to occur with more frequency as seas rise due to climate change.
The maps help people learn whether they are in a location likely to flood during hurricanes, and the new warnings will alert them to imminent danger.
“The map is us indicating you’re standing in the road, and the warning is us saying ‘You’re standing in the road and you’re going to get hit,'” Rhome said.