National hurricane preparedness week is May 16 to 22. NOAA will be dedicating each day this week to promoting information about different hurricane related topics. While it's easy to think we aren't very vulnerable to hurricanes here, one shouldn't take it for granted, especially if you happen to be one of those people who helicopters out to the Hamptons. We aren't as bad off as some coastal areas, but we aren't immune to the threat. Storm surge is labeled as the biggest threat for loss of life in a hurricane.
The greatest potential for loss of life related to a hurricane is
from the storm surge. Simply put... storm surge is water that is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around the storm. This advancing surge combines with the normal tide levels to create a storm surge. To make matters worse... wind driven waves are superimposed on the storm tide and batter structures including boats right along the coast. Storm tides... waves and currents in confined harbors severely damage marinas and boats.
Because much of the United States densely populated Atlantic and Gulf Coast coastline lies less than 10 feet above mean sea level... the danger from storm tides is tremendous. Thus... if you are asked to evacuate... you should do so without delay or hesitation.
An example of a historic storm surge event is the Long Island express in 1938. This category three hurricane featured a storm surge of 10 to 12 feet... which killed 600 people on Long Island and along the southern New England coast.
We tried to find a useful map of elevations in the city, but could only come up with the general fact that New York City's elevation is 87ft. Clearly this is not uniform in all areas of the city. We wonder what type of storm surge would have to occur to wet the coasts of Brooklyn or Manhattan?
The Coastal Services Center has an interactive Historical Hurricane Tracks site where you can look at maps of historical storm tracks in different areas of the world. Gothamist couldn't get it to work too well, but it is a cool feature when it does.
For more information, visit www.nhc.noaa.gov.