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October 5, 2016

Storm surge: Understanding the risk

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Without question, one of the greatest hurricane-related threats to both life and property is storm surge. If you live in a coastal area, it’s important to keep in mind that tropical storms, tropical depressions, and powerful winter storms can all create destructive storm surge conditions.

Storm surge is an above-normal rise in coastal sea water that is generated by a powerful storm or hurricane and exceeds normal tides. The amplitude of the storm surge depends on the orientation of the coastline with the storm track, along with the intensity, size, and speed of the storm. The main cause of storm surge is wind forcing water onshore.  In fact, the National Hurricane Center reports that 95 percent of storm surge is driven by the wind — the other 5 percent is water that rises above sea level due to low air pressure at the center of the storm.

Are You Covered?

Many homeowners incorrectly assume that their home insurance will cover damage caused by storm surge related flooding.  However, a homeowners insurance policy typically does not include protection for losses related to storm surge, sudden downpours and flash flooding, prolonged rainfall, or rapid snowmelt. These perils may be covered by purchasing flood insurance.

You can determine your property’s level of flood risk by finding out what flood zone — from high to low risk — your property is in. You can view your local flood map by visiting FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center or contacting your city or county government. It’s important to keep in mind that storm surge can happen quickly and far from a storm's center, affecting areas that don't typically flood.  Your insurance advisor can also help you understand your risk and potential solutions to help protect your property against loss.

For more information about flood insurance and other natural disaster risks, download our comprehensive guide.