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New storm surge maps to be introduced by hurricane forecasters this season

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The National Hurricane Center will introduce new maps this hurricane season, intended to show where potential storm surge may flood areas well inland from a storm's landfall point. The news maps will appear on the agency website when a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued.

The storm surge maps were showcased earlier this week at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando, Florida and forecasters hope that it will easily highlight areas most vulnerable to storm surge flooding and make evacuations more precise.

Many factors can impact the storm surge created by a particular tropical storm or hurricane, but the maps are supposed to perform well in all situations according to forecasters. Storm surge is the seawater rise pushed against the coastline by a land-falling tropical system and can be vastly different depending on a storm's intensity, speed, size, angle of approach to the coastline, and characteristics of the coastline.

In the new storm surge maps, a color key code will be utilized to differentiate the threats with a red shading indicating areas expected to be covered with more than 9 feet of water, an orange shading to indicate areas with potentially six feet or more of water, and a yellow shading indicating inundation of water at least three feet. Finally, a blue shading would indicate up to three feet of storm surge expected.

These maps will be an easy to understand visual representation of the greatest threat areas and forecasters hope that is will allow people to immediately take action to protect their life and property in a potentially dangerous situation. Emergency responders at the conference welcomed the new online tool, though it has not yet shown what it can do in action and further analysis will likely be needed at the conclusion of the hurricane season to determine how informative and helpful it really was.

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