First Alert Weather In-Depth: Storm Surge From Hurricane Ian

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The way to think of the ocean is like a big pond – I mean a really big pond. Do you remember the days when took a rock and you threw it into the pond? As the rock hits the water you get ripples that would emanate out from the center. In a simple way that is happening with this particular hurricane. The forecast for wave heights in the open ocean by Wednesday evening shows the heights running anywhere from 30 to 40 feet. The is the equivalent to a three or four story building.

That tremendous amount of wave action from the Gulf of Mexico is going to be the storm surge and warnings that are now posted from Tampa Bay all the way down to north of Naples, Florida. Depending on the exact track of Ian, this storm surge is the combination of normal sea levels in concert with the wave action driven by the wind. The very high waves and the push of water ultimately will raise the water level along the coast anywhere from 6 to 12 feet. That high water will be driven inland. A picture of Clearwater Beach shows how flat the topography is in the area and that amplifies the problem as the water can travel a greater distance inland.  As a result, there is a much greater chance of inundation.

Right now, the forecast for Tampa Bay storm surge is anywhere from 5 to 8 feet and then from Sarasota to Naples it could be 8 to 12 feet. So keep in mind, if I was standing on the beach the water would be another 6 feet above my top of my head.

Anytime you have a major hurricane, usually the greatest loss of life is going to be due to the storm surge.