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Hurricane Preparedness Week: Storm surge remains deadly part of hurricane season

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Posted at 6:14 PM, May 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-03 19:36:44-04

CAPE CORAL, Fla. — We are now less than a month away from the start of hurricane season, and many of us are still recovering from Ian. The deadliest part of that hurricane was the storm surge up and down our coastline.

We all remember the horrible images and videos of water rushing into homes and business as busy streets became ocean when Hurricane Ian made landfall.

As a refresher, storm surge is caused by a storm’s winds pushing water onshore. The height of the surge is determined by orientation of the coastline versus the track, intensity, size and speed of the storm.

As hurricane season approaches, cities and homeowners are taking steps to prepare for the next storm that has its eyes on Southwest Florida.

Cities up and down the coastline from Collier to Lee County are now building emergency berms in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season. Some homeowners are even lifting their homes to be within compliance and above a future storm surge.

“The only real option given to people was to tear down and start again, which is not necessarily viable or cost prohibitive,” said Chris Ellis of Davie Shoring, a home lifting company, describing previous option homeowners had before the technology was developed to lift homes.

Ellis said many people didn’t understand the power of water prior to seeing it for themselves during Hurricane Ian.

“People weren’t aware of the water and the damage when it came into their houses,” said Ellis. “Two foot, three foot, in some cases six foot high with surges.”

And not only damage to property, but the dangers to life itself. Unfortunately, 36 people in Lee County alone lost their lives directly from Ian’s storm surge.

“Nine out of 10 fatalities in a hurricane are related to water, half of those are from storm surge," said NWS Tampa Warning Coordinator Dan Noah. “Storm surge is the most deadly part of a hurricane.”

Noah says paralleling tracks like Ian, Charley and Irma can bring storm surge over a large portion of Florida’s west coast, far away from actual landfall location. And if you are asked to evacuate, listen."

“Just know when you are asked to evacuate, please do, because there are a thousand plus people behind that decision,” said Noah.

The general rule of thumb is run from water and hide from wind.

As we approach hurricane season, make sure you know your zone. If you don’t know what zone you live in, Fox 4 Has a helpful tool where you can plug in your address and see a map of your particular evacuation zone.