Water-Related News

See storm surge's power with new app

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Storm surge is the deadliest, yet least understood, threat posed by hurricanes. Many residents do not heed mandatory evacuation orders because they don’t understand just how high the water can rise where they live. Residents should be aware that evacuations are ordered because of storm surge, except for those living in mobile homes.

That’s why Pinellas County Emergency Management has unveiled the Storm Surge Protector. When using the online application, the suggested browsers are Internet Explorer version 9 or above, Chrome or Firefox.

This online tool provides a visual representation of the potential storm surge on a property for the evacuation level indicated and for higher evacuation levels beyond that. For example, for homes in evacuation level A, they are vulnerable to all levels of storm surge from evacuation level A through E. If the property is in a non-evacuation level there will be no storm surge depth returned for any of the five evacuation levels.

Right now, the program displays a representative image of the subject property and shows how deep the storm surge will be at that given location. In future versions, the plan is to use actual property images to show exactly what storm surge will look like for a specific property. The application also provides a visual of the impacts of storm surge on the entire neighborhood around that specific property as well as providing important facts about storm surge.

“We want to make sure that the public gets the message that storm surge should be taken personally and is deadly,” said Sally Bishop, Pinellas County’s Emergency Management Director. “Our hope is that this program will convince people that an evacuation order should be taken seriously.”

Once residents check their vulnerability with the new storm surge application they can also determine the cost of flooding with FEMA’s Cost of Flooding application, also available from Emergency Management’s website. It’s important to note that while hurricane evacuation zones are based on storm surge, they also take into account other public safety factors such as being cut off from first responder support. Residents are urged to listen to local Emergency Management officials for evacuation orders based on evacuation levels.