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This has been an issue of mine in almost every single hurricane. Meterologists, both national and local, talk repeatedly and often about "storm surge" and flooding in "low lying areas" and yet somehow masses of people who are potentially in harm's way are unable to translate the information as it relates to their own current risks.

I think a large part of this problem is that the storm surge maps we are used to looking at correlate storm surge to the category of hurricane so that people who see their neighborhood with colormapping that says they are good up to a category 3 hear about something like Sandy and they think "oh, we're good" and this is just a Category 1 or it's not even technically a hurricane, etc. and then they stay home, confident in their ability to ride out a storm.

This kind of thinking about storm surge doesn't take into account a giant storm like Sandy where the duration of the storm and the length of time spent in pushing water had as large if not larger overall inpact than just the windspeed - plus people were subjected to days of multiple high tides and flooding and not just the single cycle which typically happens when a hurrican blows through quickly with a smaller radius and then shreds apart.

When the local meteorologist tells us that the storm surge will be 8 feet above average, most people don't have the vestiage of a clue of what he/she is telling them. If they have not flooded before, they bank on this fact protecting them in the future.

In my opinion, everyone should know the basic elevation of their home. Then, find an interactive storm surge map which will allow you to click on various levels until you find the level where your home is at risk. Write down the elevation and the dangerous storm surge height for yourself and put it somewhere accessible. The next time a meteroologist tells you that there will be a 10 foot storm surge, you might pay attention and really be able to make an informed decision whether you are at risk or not and whether you should evacuate or not.

Every single time we have a hurricane, I email my local meteorologists and plead with them to NAME areas that are at risk in the CURRENT storm. Another issue I have is that many of my local meteorologists say things like "if you didn't flood in Irene, you are probably ok" and they leave it at that which completely eliminates any new arrivals in the viewing area who are now expected to know the flooding history of their new town based on a past hurricane when they weren't even residents.

It sounds to me that even someone like Mayor Bloomberg didn't have a handle on exactly which areas were at risk during Sandy and which ones should have been given evacuation orders even if they weren't in Zone A. And the same with New Jersey. I believe if most people are given easily understandable warnings about the probabilty of them flooding, as opposed to opaque meteorlogical jargon about storm surge, we will have better outcomes in the future and possibly save lives.

We could have something as simple as an addition on street signs that could say in small letters "elevation 17ft above sea level" or whatever. Just my opinion and my thoughts about this.

Originally posted to Phoebe Loosinhouse on Fri Nov 02, 2012 at 11:18 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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