Hurricane Ian, which is expected to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday, is expected to cause dangerous storm surges of up to 18 feet along Florida’s southwest coast, including Englewood, Bonita Beach and Charlotte Harbor.
“Our biggest concern as we wait for this storm to make landfall is the storm surge,” FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell warned Tuesday. “In 2018, when Hurricane Michael impacted the Florida Panhandle, five deaths were recorded as a result of storm surge.”
Here’s how storm surge works:
As pressure drops in the center of the hurricane, water levels rise. Water is pooling as the storm is still over the open ocean.
As the hurricane closes in on land, its strong winds push this water inshore and landward, creating walls of water sometimes as high as 20 feet.
The danger for people inside the houses on the coast is the deluge of water which can quickly flood the houses and overwhelm the walls.
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, at least 1,500 people died “directly or indirectly as a result of storm surge,” the National Hurricane Center said.
When Hurricane Sandy hit New York and New Jersey in 2012, many homes quickly filled with water reaching levels of 8 to 9 feet.
The risks can be even greater if a storm surge combines with a high tide, creating a rapid and devastating rise in water levels.
Editor’s Note: This storm surge article was originally published in 2018.