What can a storm surge do?

A surge of just a couple of feet can displace cars and knock people off their feet, then pull them under. At this point, it’s too late to evacuate. Storm surges are often the deadliest part of a hurricane, particularly above five or six feet, when large objects may be concealed in the flood and propelled along like battering rams. A nine-foot surge, as the Weather Channel reports, is generally not survivable.

Michael is projected to hit Florida around the panhandle region, which is especially vulnerable, due to the concave shape of the gulf coast and the adjacent shallow shelf water. National Weather Service warnings caution that some buildings may be completely washed away, and to expect some homes to be left “uninhabitable for an extended period” after the storm. Massive power outages are all but certain.

What is the size of the surge from Hurricane Matthew?

As of 11am US eastern time today (Oct. 10), the storm surge in Apalachicola had already reached 6 feet, just shy of its record of 6.4 feet, with waters continuing to rise. Other locations should prepare for even greater storm surges:

If you’re in a surge area, the best thing to do is to heed official advice and evacuate as quickly as possible. Map out your route before you go and ensure your car is full of gas. Do not get on the road without a planned route or a place to go.

If it’s too late, don’t assume you’ll be able to outdrive the surge. Instead, focus on finding shelter, and on getting as high up as you possibly can.

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