AP Explains: How hurricanes unleash lethal storm surges

Posted at 12:41 AM, Sep 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-14 00:41:55-04

WASHINGTON (AP) — Storm surges kill more people in a hurricane than anything else. Never mind the winds that rip rooftops from homes. It’s the water — from storm surge, flooding and ocean drowning — that kills nearly 9 out of 10 people in storms like Florence.

A study by the National Hurricane Center found that between 1963 and 2012, nearly half of all of U.S. hurricane deaths were from storm surge — and the rest from all the other threats like wind and surf combined.

Storm surges aren’t walls of water, like a tsunami. Caused by a hurricane’s winds pushing relentlessly onshore, they are more like domes of high water that form from the ocean spreading inland.

The deadliest hurricanes to hit the U.S. mainland killed most of their victims with storm surge, including 2005’s Katrina.