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Could rising sea levels cause concern with storm surge risk?

Posted at 12:43 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 11:33:38-04

SANIBEL, Fla. — This week Governor Ron DeSantis passed a law meant to protect Florida from rising sea levels among many things.

This comprehensive legislation will ensure a coordinated approach to Florida’s coastal and inland resiliency.

The new program will enhance our efforts to protect our inland waterways, coastlines, shores, and coral reefs. All of those serve as invaluable natural defenses against sea-level rise.

Many experts have debated how rising sea levels will also impact storm surge during hurricane seasons in Florida. Storm surge is the combination of the normal sea level and storm tide as tropical systems push more water inland. If sea levels continue to rise, this could help storm surge spread further inland leaving more destruction behind.

Source: NOAA

Sanibel Island was an area impacted by a storm surge last year after Tropical Storm Eta moved across our state twice before becoming a hurricane right off of the coast.

Storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property when it comes to tropical systems. Experts from the National Hurricane Center said they are keeping their eye on certain parts of Southwest Florida for a very big reason.

“The entire West Coast is so sensitive to storm surge because of the slope of the Gulf," said Michael Brennan from the National Hurricane Center. "Then again, Florida has been relatively lucky over the length of the peninsula especially over the last few years."

While Brennan explained how lucky Southwest Florida has been over the past several years, many residents who have lived through Hurricanes Charley and Irma may disagree. However, Storm Surge Expert Jamie Rhome said those storm produced severe storm surge but it could have been a lot worse.

“The bulk of the population along the Florida West Coast has not experienced the full wrath of a major hurricane in their lifetime."

CoreLogic is a California-based company that releases an annual report on cities that could be threatened by storm surge. Two Southwest Florida cities, including Fort Myers and Naples, made the top 10 metro areas at risk of storm surge further solidifying the fact that our coastline is a vulnerable area.

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