If You Live in a Purple Spot, Head for the Hills

Featuring an international airport and the world’s busiest cruise port, the Miami region has much to offer. Located on a broad plain between the Florida Everglades and Biscayne Bay, the area’s elevation never rises above 40 feet and averages at around six feet above sea level in most neighborhoods, especially near the coast. While that makes for an abundance of water activities, it also makes us susceptible to storm surge.

Storm Surge or Storm Tide?

Storm surge is the rise in the water level as a storm moves ashore, over and above the predicted astronomical tides, and is caused primarily by the strong winds in a hurricane or tropical storm. Storm surge should not be confused with storm tide, which is defined as the water level rise due to the combination of storm surge and the astronomical tide. While only 18 hurricane seasons have passed since 1851 without a known storm impacting Florida, all locations along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts are vulnerable to storm surge. Contrary to popular belief, the extreme flooding caused by storm surge is more responsible than wind for the injuries, deaths and property damage resulting from a hurricane.

History of Storm Surge Damage

The 1926 Miami hurricane that devastated the greater Miami area had a storm surge that flooded the streets with knee-deep water, carried yachts onto shore and submerged the MacArthur Causeway under six feet of water. Hurricane Donna roared across South Florida in 1960 with an 11-foot storm surge, while Hurricane Betsy brought a six-foot storm surge in 1965 that flooded Miami and Fort Lauderdale and is said to have nearly covered the island of Key Biscayne. One of the greatest recorded storm surges was generated by 2005's Hurricane Katrina, which produced a maximum storm surge of more than 25 feet in Mississippi. Another record storm surge occurred in New York City from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, with a high tide of 14 feet.

Listen for Storm Surge Alerts this Season

The severity of a storm surge varies greatly, depending on numerous factors, including the storm’s size, the strength of the winds, the storm’s forward speed, the width and slope of the ocean bottom, the angle of the storm’s approach to the coast and the shape of the coastline. With storm surge being responsible for about half of the lives lost to tropical weather, the National Hurricane Center in Miami will begin posting storm surge alerts beginning this hurricane season for any location where water might rise at least three feet above normal. These alerts will be in addition to tropical storm and hurricane warnings and watches, which are mainly advisories about a system’s wind.

The hurricane center will issue surge watches 48 hours in advance and warnings 36 hours before the hurricane makes landfall. The warnings will appear on this season’s maps as dark purple, while watches will be a lighter shade of purple. It is important to note that the surge advisories may cover different areas than the wind advisories because they exist exclusive of each other – where you find one, you won’t necessarily find the other. For example, Hurricane Ike was classified as only a category two for wind, but it brought up to 20 feet of storm surge, killed at least 20 people and left more than $30 billion in damage when it hit Texas in 2008.

Since these alerts are new, it’s possible that the three-foot criteria or how the messages are conveyed to the public could change next year. The models predicting surge need to be updated every year because the topography of the coastline is always changing. Nevertheless, if you see your neighborhood shaded in purple on a hurricane center map this season, you should head inland for higher ground.

Insurance Claim Attorneys

Here at Stabinski and Funt, P.A., we handle a wide range of hurricane-related insurance cases. Whether you have a storm surge, wind damage, roof damage or water penetration insurance claim on your house or business, we are prepared to fight for you against insurance companies that have wrongfully denied or delayed claims or failed to adequately cover the damage.

If you are trying to put your life back together after a hurricane or have more questions about this topic, entrust your case to the attorneys at Stabinski Law For 45 years, we have helped people understand their rights under the law. Contact us by calling (305) 643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

DISCLAIMER: Any information about past verdicts and settlements is based on the unique facts of each case. Every case is different, and future cases may not achieve the same or similar results. These amounts reflect the gross recovery (before attorneys’ fees and expenses are deducted).

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