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Storm surge estimates based on historical records may be too low

If you live near the coast in the Southeast, you are no doubt aware that storm surges associated with land-falling hurricanes can cause tremendous devastation.  Storm surges from Ivan and Katrina caused tremendous damage to coastal areas.  At the same time coastlines are being developed at a rapid rate, putting more people in harm’s way when the next big hurricane hits.  Engineers have tried to estimate how often a storm surge of a certain size has hit so that they can design buildings and other infrastructure to withstand this expected storm surge.  But a recent study from the American Geophysical Union suggests that these estimates are way too low.  The study bases its numbers on sediment data from storm surges which occurred before historical records were kept.  The new study indicates that in northwestern Florida a storm surge of 20 feet would occur once every 100 years, instead of once every 400 years as estimated using historical records alone.  You can read an article about the study at EarthSky by clicking here.

If you are interested in looking at storm surge maps for your region of the coast, you can find them collected at http://www.wunderground.com/hurricane/surge_images.asp?