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Why coastal communities should fear storm surge

August 26, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Coastal areas in New England are bracing for the high tide that is scheduled to be at it's highest as waves crash into homes in Scituate, Massachusetts on March 2, 2018. High winds, rain and flooding is taking place in Scituate and the surrounding coastal areas of Massachusetts as a storm known as a 'bomb cyclone' makes it way past the East Coast. / AFP PHOTO / RYAN MCBRIDE (Photo credit should read RYAN MCBRIDE/AFP/Getty Images)

The National Weather Service says almost half of all deaths from tropical cyclones come from storm surge. While many people focus on the wind speed of storms, the danger often comes from the water flowing in from the ocean.

This story has previously been published related to other hurricanes' threat of storm surge.

(CNN)When Hurricane Laura makes landfall, the major storm will bring with it flash flooding, extreme winds and unsurvivable storm surge, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday.

Almost half of all deaths from tropical cyclones come from storm surge.

While many people focus on the wind speed of storms, the danger often comes from the water flowing in from the ocean.

Privately, you may be wondering (and you wouldn't be alone): "What exactly is storm surge?"

"A storm surge is a rise in water level caused by a strong storm's wind pushing water on-shore," said CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller.

Storm surge from Laura could reach 30 miles inland

Geography, tide cycle and wind direction are all factors in how severe storm surge could be, Miller said.

The stronger the storm, the stronger the winds and the higher the storm surge will be.

National Hurricane Center forecasters warned of "life-threatening storm surge and hurricane-force winds" for parts of the Gulf Coast.

Storm surge warnings -- issued when there is a danger of life-threatening inundation for the next 36 hours -- have been issued from Freeport, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

"The topography in south Louisiana is extremely low-lying, so water can travel very far north with a storm like Laura," CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray says.

Laura will push all of this water very far north -- up to 30 miles inland -- quite possibly reaching Interstate 10.

"Every little bayou, every little river that normally drains your rain, is going to flow in the opposite direction with storm surge," National Hurricane Director Ken Graham told CNN.

Even for a city as far away as New Orleans, the metro area is forecast to have a storm surge between 2 and 4 feet.

Storm surge also can exacerbate flooding.

Due to climate change, storm surge has become an even greater threat in recent years.

The higher baseline ocean level allows storm surges to reach even higher, increasing their destructive capabilities," Miller said.

The National Weather Service in a 2014 report said that most surge deaths occurred in Hurricane Katrina and several other big, powerful storms.

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