When Hurricane Ike arrived in Southeast Texas in September 2008, it was a category two storm with winds peaking at 110 mph at landfall near Galveston.
But it wasn't the wind that devastated Bolivar Peninsula. It was the storm surge.
According to the National Weather Service Houston/Galveston damage survey, 80 to 90 percent of homes in Crystal Beach, Gilchrist and Caplen were destroyed.
In Chambers County, it is suspected that storm surge values reached 15 to possibly over 20 feet.
Galveston Island was hit by a storm surge generally between 10 to 13 feet.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a hurricane, yet many people still base their decision to evacuate based on the storm's wind speed or strength.
"Post storm studies over the past several decades have shown that people are not aware of the risk they face from storm surge," explained Bill Read, Former Director of the National Hurricane Center and KPRC Local 2 Severe Weather Expert. "By elevating the storm surge to warning status, the hope is that people will know they are at risk and take appropriate action."
In a recent survey commissioned by Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH), 84 percent of Americans incorrectly believe the myth that evacuation orders are based on a storm's wind. In actuality, they are mostly based on storm surge and flooding potential.
From 1990-2008, population density increased by 32 percent in Gulf coastal counties (U.S. Census Bureau 2010).
Also consider that much of the US's heavily populated Atlantic and Gulf coast coastlines are less than 10 feet above mean sea level.
That is why forecasting storm surge and its potential inland flooding is so important.
During the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the NHC is going to roll out a Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map.
The color-coded map will show where along the Gulf coast storm surge could happen and how far inland it will go. Then it will also show how high the storm surge will get.
The storm surge map will be in an experimental phase for the next two years.
"Forecasting storm surge is tricky and filled with uncertainty. The products NHC are testing address the uncertainty aspects," said Read.
After taking input, the NHC will decide if the map will put into full-time operation.
In case a map is issued in our area, here is what you should know about them.
The first map will be issued with the first hurricane watch alert, or sometimes with a tropical storm watch since storm surge doesn't only happen with major hurricanes.
The map's water coverage or overspreading will have a 10 percent chance of being exceeded. So for the NHC, this will represent a reasonable worst-case scenario.
The maps will be issued every six hours along with the latest storm advisories.
Because hurricanes are such dynamic storms, paying close attention to both the storm advisories and the storm surge forecast is very important.
"Just like wind forecasts, surge forecasts can change with each forecast. Forecasts are issued every six hours, and it is important for people to keep up with the latest forecast since it could change the impact expected for them," said Read.