Weather Workshop: Storm Surge

Weather Workshop: Storm Surge

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - With the start of hurricane season this month, First Alert Meteorologists Andrew Dockery and Jessica Dobson are giving you some helpful hurricane hacks and fun experiments to help you get through and understand hurricane season.

HURRICANE HACKS

Water is one of the most important and essential items you’ll need when you’re preparing for hurricane season. When a hurricane or tropical storm is imminent, you want to make sure you’re prepared with plenty of clean drinking water. It’s recommended that you have at least three gallons of drinking water per person, per day for at least three days in your hurricane preparedness kit.

One way to store and keep large quantities of clean water is to fill large, waterproof trash bags in your bathtub. When the bags are full, you can tie the bags shut and keep the water until you need to use it. Another hack to easily store large quantities of water would be to fill large plastic storage totes in your bathtub. These are easy to stack and typically have sealable lids as well.

Here are a few hurricane hacks for you to remember before a storm impacts us on the Grand Strand.
Here are a few hurricane hacks for you to remember before a storm impacts us on the Grand Strand. (Source: WMBF)

Another useful item you probably have around your home is a small plastic grocery bag. This hack would be used if you found yourself in a situation where you must walk through standing water. After you put your socks on, wrap the plastic grocery bag around your foot. Take the handles of the bag and tie them together securely around your ankle. This helps to keep a (mostly) waterproof barrier between the water and your feet.

EXPERIMENT

The focus of this week’s weather workshop is to explain how storm surge in a tropical storm or hurricane impacts the coastline.

Storm surge occurs when wind from the incoming tropical storm or hurricane blow onshore.
Storm surge occurs when wind from the incoming tropical storm or hurricane blow onshore. (Source: WMBF)

Here’s what you will need for the experiment

  • Play-doh
  • Plate
  • Cup of Water
  • Food Coloring
  • Blow Dryer
  • Peppermint/Hard Candy
  • Extra Paper Towels

On a plate, flatten the Play-doh so that it covers half of the plate. Make the edge of the Play-doh that is closest to the empty side thinner and flatter. Make the Play-doh that is along the edge of the plate thicker. This should create a slope that mimics the beach and coastline.

Next, you’ll place your peppermints or hard candy at different levels of the coast. These will represent houses or home along the coast and will demonstrate how the closer you are to the ocean, the more likely you are to be impacted by storm surge.

Your next step is to add a few drops of food coloring to your cup of water. This simply makes it easier to see how the water moves and travels.

Once you have completed those steps, you are ready to try the experiment! Pour the water on the empty portion of your plate or bowl, just enough to fill the water up to the edge of the Play-doh.

Take your blow dryer and place it on the coolest setting and on the lowest power. Point the blow dryer at the water and towards the “beach.”

As you turn on the blow dryer, you’ll notice that the water is pushed onshore by the wind. This is exactly what happens during a tropical storm or hurricane – strong winds push ocean waters onshore. The hard candies/peppermints will “flood,” representing homes that are impacted by storm surge.

Once you turn the blow dryer on a higher speed, the water gets much higher and impacts more homes. The same can be said about the strength of a hurricane. The stronger the hurricane, the greater the winds, and the higher the storm surge that takes place.

Storm surge occurs when wind from the incoming tropical storm or hurricane blow onshore.
Storm surge occurs when wind from the incoming tropical storm or hurricane blow onshore. (Source: WMBF)

New this year, you’ll see Storm Surge Watches and Storm Surge Warnings as storms roll into our area. These are now public and basically tell us when rising water is possible or expected to move inland as a storm moves in. For a complete breakdown of some of the other terms you can hear during hurricane season, visit our complete web story from Hurricane Preparedness Week.

For a better understanding on how storm surge forms and the impacts from previous storms, you can visit the National Hurricane Center’s website for so much information!

Look out for next week’s weather workshop where Jessica and Andrew will tell you more hurricane hacks and demonstrate another aspect of hurricane season.

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