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Storm surge experiment becomes operational

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Storm surge is one of the deadliest aspects of a hurricane. (WTVD)

Storm surge is one of the deadliest aspects of a hurricane. It occurs when high wind pushes water towards the shoreline, causing water levels to rise. It can lead to flooding and widespread destruction.

For the past two years the National Weather Service has experimented with a storm surge map, that would warn residents about the potential flooding emergency heading their way. The product, called "PSURGE" or the Experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map, was developed by meteorologists, social scientists and emergency managers.

This summer, it will become fully operational allowing extra lead time for you and your family in the event of a tropical cyclone.

The new system is easy to navigate and understand, as it will highlight areas of concern in color. Shades of blue, yellow, orange, and red correspond with different forecasted water levels.

Frank Marks, director of hurricane research for NOAA says this new product will help those in the path of the storm better prepare for the impact ahead.

"Instead of giving you a surge height, it gives you inundation. How deep is the water going to be at your door? Do you need to wear boots when you walk outside, or do you need to get a boat to get outside?" Marks explained. "They went and developed this technique and they spent the last three years trying to finalize the product that would make it informative."

The National Hurricane Center will release the initial map with the first issuance of a hurricane watch or warning a tropical storm watch or warning, if warranted. The map will update every six hours, so you stay in the loop.

It will require a change in public thinking. As Marks explains, the public has to get used to relying on something other than the Saffir-Simpson scale.

"For decades we had people educated on Saffir-Simpson that tells you what to expect, so that changed," he said. "People don't take to change fast."

More than 75 percent of deaths associated with hurricanes are a result of water, not wind, according to the National Hurricane Center. The hope is that this new warning system will save lives.

"The product itself, as a meteorologist, is phenomenal because it gives you an idea of what the potential for the surge is in terms of probability, because you can't get exact," Marks said.

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