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National Hurricane Center to debut storm surge watch alerts

Photo source: NOAA

The National Hurricane Center is always testing and updating products so you have the best information and lead time on hurricanes. Starting this year, when a hurricane threatens landfall, we'll get expanded information on storm surge.

The Hurricane Center has always provided information about how high and what type of surge to expect, but now we'll see actual watches and warnings. Storm surge is deadly and destructive.

Jason Beaman is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the National Weather Service office for Mobile and Pensacola. He said, "Almost half the fatalities related to tropical cyclones are from storm surge. Storm surge is killing the most people along with inland flooding. So this is the power of water."

Hurricanes and tropical systems have powerful winds that can push water over land in areas that are normally dry. A storm surge watch/warning map will alert people to areas that could see intense flooding.

When life-threatening surge could affect an area within 48 hours, the Hurricane Center will issue a storm surge watch.

With imminent danger, we'll get a warning 36 hours before impact. This will happen whether or not the storm is tropical in nature.

Just before Sandy hit the northeast in 2012, the National Hurricane Center no longer considered it to be tropical and left advisories to local weather service offices. Sandy brought a devastating storm surge and the Hurricane Center is making a promise not to let that scenario play out again. This year if a storm produces a surge, watches and warnings will be issued regardless of the specific scientific nature of the system.

Bearman said, "Anything we can do to enhance the message of the dangers of storm surge get people to respond better off we will all be. The safer we will all be."

If a tropical system threatens us this year, you can expect to see storm surge watches and warnings from your First Warning Weather Team.

Click here to connect to National Weather Service Storm Surge Video.

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