Storm surge and flooding

MIRLO BEACH - The Outer Banks community north of Rodanthe before you hit Highway 12 was destroyed just north of the beach. Nov. 1, 2 012. (WAVY/Andy Fox)

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Storm surge is a major problem associated with strong, tropical systems. Storm surge is a forced rise in the water levels that is caused by strong winds as well as lower pressure during a hurricane. It is not a huge crashing wave, but rather a steady or rapid increase of water levels.

This rising water can push onto land with damaging and sometimes deadly consequences. Historically, up to 90 percent of all fatalities during a hurricane have been from storm surge flooding. Typically, the stronger the winds blow in a hurricane, the higher the water will rise. However, there are other factors involved such as geography, size of the area of those winds, wind duration, and even the current moon phase.

We have had several different hurricanes affect Hampton Roads in the last decade. Sandy was the most recent example. Sandy was unique as it stayed far from our shores, yet it still managed to cause moderate flooding throughout the viewing area. Storm surge often spreads into the Chesapeake Bay and can even reach up into the local river system; affects from flooding can be felt far inland as in Sandy’s case.

Along with storm surge, general flooding from heavy, persistent rain can also create rapidly rising waters. In either case, flooding may happen in a matter of hours or even minutes. Once passable roadways can suddenly become cut-off. Even interstates can flood in worst cases. Before a hurricane arrives you should plan at least two routes to your destination in case one becomes impassible. If you can’t see the depth of the water ahead while driving, turn around and find another route.

Flood Safety Rules

Avoid or leave areas subject to sudden flooding. These include dips and low-lying spots. Avoid already flooded and high velocity flow areas. Do not attempt to cross flowing streams. Never drive through flooded roadways, the depth of the water is not always obvious. Turn around and go another way. If the vehicle stalls, leave it immediately and find higher ground. Rapidly rising water may engulf the vehicle and its occupants, sweeping them away. Use caution at night when it is more difficult to recognize flood dangers. Do not camp or park your vehicle along streams, particularly during threatening conditions. Children should never play with high water, storm drains, or viaducts.

After the Flood

If fresh food has come into contact with floodwaters, throw it out. Boil drinking water before using. Wells should be pumped out and the water tested for purity
before drinking. Call your public health authority for more information.

Seek necessary medical care at the nearest hospital.

Food, clothing, shelter and first aid are available from the American Red Cross and other relief organizations. Do not visit disaster areas. You may hamper rescue and other emergency operations. Electrical equipment should be checked and dried before being returned to service. Use flashlights (not lanterns,
torches or matches) to examine buildings. Flammables may be inside. Report broken utility lines to appropriate authorities.

Flood Insurance

Flooding is the number one weather-related killer from a hurricane. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is a federal program which offers flood insurance to property owners and renters. Flood insurance can ONLY be purchased through an insurance agent. Rates are set by the government and do not differ from agent to agent.

Everyone lives in a flood zone. Each flood zone is determined by the risk of flooding (low, moderate or high). Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Typically it takes 30 days for a policy to take effect. Homes and buildings in high-risk areas are required to have flood insurance if you have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. Even if you do not live in a high-risk area, it is recommended to buy flood insurance since floods can occur at any time. Keep in mind that Hampton Roads is surrounded by different bodies of water. Renters are encouraged to purchase flood insurance to insure your contents
or possessions.

Flood insurance policies cover physical damage to your property and/or your possessions. Flood insurance premiums are determined by many factors, including, flood risk, amount of coverage, elevation and design/age of the home/building. Flooding is defined as a great flowing or overflowing of water, especially over land not usually submerged. Flood insurance does not cover damage from wind-driven rain since the damage is wind related and not flood related.

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