Miami-Dade Launches Storm Surge Simulator

MIAMI (CBS4) — As South Florida tracks Hurricane Irene and on the 19th Anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, a new tool has been launched for Miami-Dade residents regarding the threat of storm surge.

Storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane. It occurs when water from the ocean is pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds swirling around a hurricane.

County residents can now use the Storm Surge Simulator which combines historical data and modern day technology to see what storm surge can mean to them and their property.

Storm surge is the primary reason why Miami-Dade residents are asked to evacuate prior to a hurricane event.

With the new Storm Surge Simulator, residents type in their address, pick the intensity of the hurricane (Category 1-5), select the image of a person or home, and let the simulator do the rest. For those living in Evacuation Zones, the simulator is a reminder of the potential impact of storm surge.

More than a half a million people live in one of Miami-Dade County’s three Hurricane Evacuation Zones.

“Miami-Dade residents are encouraged to use the Storm Surge Simulator to educate themselves on their vulnerability to storm surge and put an appropriate hurricane evacuation plan into place,” said Curtis Sommerhoff, Director of the Miami-Dade Department of Emergency Management. “Understanding your risk can help mitigate the impacts of a disaster. The launch of the simulator is especially timely as we are in the middle of a very active hurricane season.”

To try out the simulator, go to

The Storm Surge Simulator is made possible through a partnership between Miami-Dade County’s Department of Emergency Management and Florida International University’s International Hurricane Research Center and School of Computing and Information Sciences.

Hurricane Storm Surge Calculated With New Web Tool

Residents in Miami-Dade County, Fla., will have a new Web tool at their disposal in the event Hurricane Irene comes ashore on the Eastern Seaboard later this week.

The new tool, called the Storm Surge Simulator, allows users to calculate storm surge levels in Miami-Dade’s three evacuation zones based on location and hurricane severity. The tool is accessible on the county’s website.

Located near the southeastern tip of Florida, a portion of Miami-Dade County is on the seashore. The county’s three designated evacuation zones total 800 square miles, with nearly half a million residents living there.

To view predicted storm surge levels, users click the hurricane category level (1 through 5), and then select if a person, house or villa would be affected by the surge. Users then either type in an address or click on the Google map provided on the site. The inputted information is used to calculate the storm surge levels.

For example, the simulator projects that a Category 3 hurricane in South Miami Heights would cause three feet of water surge at a house. During a Category 4 hurricane in Palmetto Bay, the tool projects a person would be four feet deep during a storm surge.

But calculating projected storm surge levels online shouldn’t encourage residents to ignore hurricane-related evacuation warnings, said Curtis Sommerhoff, director of the Miami-Dade Department of Emergency Management.

“We don’t want people to go and use the simulator and try to make their own call on whether they should evacuate or stay at home,” Sommerhoff said. “The main purpose of the simulator is to really bring to light the impact of storm surge.”

Sommerhoff said the tool was developed during the past year by the Miami-Dade County Department of Emergency Management and Florida International University’s International Hurricane Research Center and School of Computing and Information Sciences. Data for the tool was collected from the National Hurricane Center (NHC) from its computerized model called the Sea, Lake and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH).

The SLOSH model collects data on surge levels such as estimated storm surge heights and winds based on pressure, size, forward speed and track, according to the NHC’s website.

“The SLOSH model is generally accurate within plus or minus 20 percent,” according to the NHC. “For example, if the model calculates a peak 10-foot storm surge for the event, you can expect the observed peak to range from 8 to 12 feet.”

According to Vicki Mallette, external affairs coordinator for the Miami-Dade Emergency Management Department, the Storm Surge Simulator’s total cost was $2,800, all of which was funded by a state grant. As new surge data is evaluated and finalized, the information will be added to the simulator.

The tool was announced Wednesday, Aug. 24, in conjunction with the nineteenth anniversary of Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall south of Miami in 1992. Andrew caused $27 billion in damage and was responsible for 23 deaths.

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean officially begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Discussion Starter: What other technologies are useful for hurricane-related information? Share your comments below.

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