Storm Surges

Storm surges are the rise of water levels due to offshore low pressure weather systems such as hurricanes.

The water level is also affected by the tide, so when combined with the surge, can make for a very dangerous amount of water coming your way.

So if a hurricane is in the forecast be prepared for storm surges, which cause much damage and take the lives of many people each year. Be prepared to evacuate.

Listen to the authorities who will communicate important updates and directives via radio, television, the internet and at times telephone messaging systems. Always have a battery operated radio in the event the power goes out. Do not stay at home if your house or apartment is in the danger zone.

On the left you can see the Impact of a Storm Surge (Wikipedia).

The National Hurricane Center uses the SLOSH model to forecast storm surges. The model is accurate to within 20%. SLOSH stands for Sea, Lake, Overland Surges from Hurricanes.

Prepare in advance, as with any other kind of potential emergency situation that may occur in your region and you'll fare better than if you didn't.

Obviously storm surges pose a significant danger to life and property for the affected areas, and taking advantage of advanced forecasts warning you of what is coming, you can plan accordingly.

Here are some links to help you to learn more about storm surges.

1. National Hurricane Center

2. Wikipedia - Storm Surges

Storm surges in Canada

The following information is from the Get Prepared site of the Government of Canada.

For more info on storm surges

Canadian Hurricane Centre

Storm Surges - Teacher's Guide

Storm surge can occur along all coastal areas of Canada. It can also occur in large lakes, such as the Great Lakes. A storm surge consists of very high waves and high water levels caused by wind and air pressure. It often results in coastal flooding. A storm surge can occur at any time of the year and can be particularly damaging in icy waters of winter.

Storm surges can happen quickly, without allowing much time for preparation. Residents, particularly those living in low-lying areas near the coastline, should prepare in advance.

Storm surge facts

  • A storm surge is caused by an abnormal rise in water levels and can often accompany hurricanes, high winds or very intense winter storms.
  • The storm surge itself is caused by the wind and pressure "pushing" the water onto the shore, often resulting in high waves and flooding.
  • It should not be confused with a tsunami which is caused by an earthquake or landslide.
  • Getting caught near the shoreline during a storm surge could be life-threatening.

Listen for storm surge warnings

  • If a storm surge has the potential to affect your region, the Meteorological Service of Canada will issue warnings.
  • Statements informing the public of the potential for high surf, high water levels and coastal flooding are issued up to 48 hours in advance of any anticipated storm surge.

Preparing for a storm surge

  • Check your house and land for any potential dangers related to flooding. Identify any vulnerability and repair it.
  • Sandbags are a valuable tool to prevent water from entering your home. This approach requires specific instructions from your local emergency officials.
  • Learn how to turn off the gas and electricity in your house. You may be instructed by local authorities to shut these off.
  • If you live in an area that is subject to flooding, do not store your important documents in the basement. Keep them at a higher level, protected from flood damage.
  • Ensure that your family has an emergency kit and plan.
  • Ensure your emergency kit is portable, in a back-pack or suitcase with wheels.
  • Your local chapter of St. John Ambulance can teach you first aid and CPR. Your local Red Cross can teach you survival techniques in the water through their swimming and boating courses.

If a storm surge is forecast

  • Check supplies including medications, radio, flashlight and batteries.
  • You may have to evacuate. Keep your emergency kit close at hand in a portable container such as a back-pack, duffel bag or suitcase with wheels.
  • Make sure the basement windows are closed.
  • Fuel your car. If evacuation becomes necessary, it will be hard to stop for gas.
  • If you have any questions or need to know more about evacuation procedures, contact your local emergency management organization or police or fire department.

During a storm surge

  • Stay inside where you are protected from the water. It's best to be on the downwind side of the house, away from windows.
  • Monitor the storm's progress and listen for warnings or instructions from local officials.
  • Before driving anywhere, listen carefully to rescue officials who will be coordinating evacuation plans.
  • Do not drive through flood waters.
  • Be aware of risks such as hypothermia from cold water or drowning from running water.

Include this page in your emergency plan

If you live along the ocean or a large lake, print this information and include copies in your emergency plan and emergency kit.


Storm Surge