The dangers of storm surge and how SWFL is preparing

Reporter: Michael Hudak Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:
Storm surge preps
Storm surge preparations at Lovers Key State Park. (Credit: WINK News)

A big concern for Southwest Florida from Hurricane Ian is storm surge. That means water from the gulf will be pushed toward the shore by the winds around the hurricane.

Some people are thinking property first, filling up sandbags and hoping that will keep water out of their homes.

Others are making plans to bolt. They know water is what kills people in hurricanes, not the wind.

Storm surge is measured as the amount of water on top of the ground where you stand. Four to seven feet of surge along the beach with nothing to stop it is a serious threat no one should ignore.

“Historically, storm surge has been attributed to the most deaths, right? Related to hurricanes,” said Cody Fritz, with the National Weather Service.

WINK News has received questions asking how storm surge is measured. “The depth of the water is basically a big factor in how much storm surge you might get,” said Fritz.

This is Hurricane Ian’s anticipated storm surge for the west coast of Florida. The Tampa area could see five to 10 feet. Closer to home, the storm surge forecast on Monday says people living along our waterways could see as much as four to six feet.

Cassy Reynolds oversees operations at Lovers Key State Park. She’s not wasting any time hoping for a storm to move away from us.

“Hurricane Irma and other storms have really caused a lot of surge sand and erosion damage,” said Reynolds.

That’s why, well before Ian arrives, they are taking all of the heavy beach gear off of the beach.

“Even with smaller tropical storms, a lot of sand gets washed out,” said Reynolds. “We’ve had picnic tables buried to where you couldn’t even see at the top. So and that was just during a tropical depression.”

Not everyone is hard at work, though.

“They’re picking everything up. They’re getting it safe. And we’re just sitting here enjoying the beach,” said Steve Trammell, who is visiting from Kentucky.

Those of you who are new to Southwest Florida should know that we are more vulnerable to storm surges than people on the ocean side of the state.

That’s because the gulf floor or continental shelf slopes gently from deep to shallow water, so a storm in the gulf has an easier time pushing lots of water our way.

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