A storm surge is a mound of water produced when a hurricane moves across a large body of water. Driving wind “pushes” the water so quickly that it “piles up” on the water in front of it, producing a mound of water that is higher than normal sea level.
As the storm approaches land, the storm surge can be pushed up the beach and deep into inland areas. It arrives as a rush of water and can be capped by large, strong, pounding waves. Storm surge flooding is often the most deadly and damaging impact of a hurricane.
Storm surges are capable of causing total inundation of entire coastal areas. A powerful hurricane can produce a storm surge of 15 feet or more. Storm surges of 20, 30 and 40 feet have been experienced in extreme storms.
Portions of many important coastal cities and resort areas have thousands of people living on land that is less than 10 feet above sea level. Storm surges can knock down buildings, move trains off of their tracks, carry ships and docks inland, fill subways and do many other types of damage.