Storm surge research helps save lives

Published: Jun. 3, 2019 at 9:15 PM EDT
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Hurricane season is here and researchers are hoping to keep people better informed about their risks when it comes to the storm surge that hurricanes can bring.

Experts at the UNC Institute for Marine Sciences in Morehead City have been dialing in their computer models for years.

Director Dr. Rick Luettich says, they have become extremely accurate at determining what kind of storm surge risk areas face.

The computer programs are being used by FEMA for the National Flood Insurance Plan, the Army Corps of Engineers and local city governments as well.

"We've developed some fairly advanced storm surge models so we run them in a variety of different applications, they get used for example by FEMA to determine what areas are likely to be flooded for the national flood insurance program, they get run by the army corps of engineers to design, so if you go to New Orleans the levy system in New Orleans was designed using our computer programs," said Dr. Luettich.

Experts at the Marine Sciences Institute say, they can make predictions for each storm using the super computers and in the aftermath of the storm, they can review the predictions and make adjustments in preparation for the next storm.

It's the kind of information proven to be lifesaving in many communities, like Beaufort.

Mayor Rett Newton says surge predictions before a storm hits is vital.

"Using these storm surge models we can get that information to the citizens and let them make the firm decision they need as far as when to evacuate, where to evacuate and those kind of tough decisions," he said.

They say, now looking back on Hurricane Florence, experts can compare their predictions versus what actually happened and make adjustments, giving them more data for the next storm.