GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — Many people believe that winds are the most dangerous part of a hurricane. Although winds do pose a significant threat during a hurricane, storm surge is usually the deadliest force of a tropical system.
Storm surge is an abnormal rise in sea level due to a traveling tropical system. To understand how storm surge makes it to the coast, let’s first dive into the details of hurricane formation.
With an unstable atmosphere, warm moist air above the ocean surface begins to rise, leading to cloud formation and then eventually thunderstorm activity. As these thunderstorms continue to strengthen, a broad area of rotation begins to form, otherwise known as a low pressure. As the pressure continues to drop, winds begin to pick up with a strengthening hurricane.
Throughout this entire process, winds will eventually pile up water in the center of the storm. Once the storm makes it closer to land, dangerous flooding occurs along coastlines. This is because the water literally has nowhere to escape other than stretching onto land.
The lower the pressure with a tropical storm can mean a more dangerous storm surge. With that being said, pressure and winds are not the only factors influencing storm surge. The intensity, size and speed of a hurricane also play a role in how strong storm surge can be as well as the shape and depth of each coastline.