What Are Storm Surges & Storm Tides?

When severe weather systems such as hurricanes and tropical storms approach coastal regions, they often bring with them two critical and potentially devastating phenomena: storm surges and storm tides.

We often associate flooding with hurricanes and tropical storms, attributing it to the heavy rainfall these systems bring. However, the primary cause of severe coastal flooding during these weather events is often the storm surge, which can then be further exacerbated by a storm tide. 

Understanding these two events is important for effective flood preparation and flood risk mitigation in vulnerable coastal areas.

What is a Storm Surge?

A storm surge is an abnormal rise in seawater level during a storm, over and above the predicted astronomical tide. It is primarily caused by the strong winds and low pressure that come with powerful weather systems. 

Here’s how a storm surge works:

  • Wind Influence - Strong winds from the storm push large amounts of water towards the shore, causing the water level to rise significantly.
  • Pressure Effect - The low atmospheric pressure in the center of the storm allows the water surface to rise. Although this effect is smaller than that of the wind, it still contributes to the overall surge.

The magnitude of a storm surge can vary widely, depending on several factors:

  • Storm Intensity - Stronger storms with higher winds generate higher surges.
  • Storm Size - Larger storms impact a wider area, potentially increasing the volume of water pushed ashore.
  • Storm Speed and Angle of Approach - Slower-moving storms and those approaching perpendicular to the coast can result in higher surges.
  • Coastal Topography - Shallow, gently sloping coastlines tend to experience higher surges compared to steeper shores.

What is a Storm Tide?

A storm tide is the combination of the storm surge and the normal astronomical tide. It represents the total observed sea level rise due to the combined effects of the surge and the tide. For instance, if a storm surge of 10 feet coincides with a high tide of 5 feet, the storm tide would reach 15 feet above the mean sea level.

Here’s how storm surges and tidal phases interact:

  • High Tide - When a storm surge coincides with high tide, the storm tide reaches its maximum potential height, leading to greater flooding and potential damage.
  • Low Tide - If the storm surge occurs during low tide, the resulting storm tide will be lower, although still potentially damaging.

What is the Impact of Storm Surges and Storm Tides?

The impacts of storm surges and storm tides can be catastrophic, including (but not limited to): 

  • Flooding - Coastal flooding can inundate homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure, leading to significant property damage and economic loss.
  • Erosion - Powerful storm tides can erode beaches, dunes, and coastal landforms, altering the landscape and reducing natural defenses against future storms.
  • Saltwater Intrusion - Saltwater can contaminate freshwater supplies, impacting drinking water and agriculture.
  • Ecosystem Damage - Coastal ecosystems, including wetlands and estuaries, can be severely affected, with long-term damage for biodiversity.

Understanding that storm surges and storm tides are critical contributors to flooding highlights the need for comprehensive flood preparation. This approach should include not only measures to manage rainwater but also coastal defenses and early warning systems to mitigate the impacts of rising sea levels driven by storm surges and tides. By preparing for the full spectrum of flooding risks, communities can better protect lives and property from the complex dynamics of coastal storms.

Mitigation and Preparedness Against Storm Surges and Storm Tides

To mitigate the impacts of storm surges and storm tides, comprehensive preparedness and adaptation strategies are essential:

  • Early Warning Systems - Advanced meteorological forecasting and early warning systems help communities prepare for impending storms.
  • Infrastructure Design - Building resilient infrastructure that can withstand high water levels and implementing effective coastal defenses such as seawalls and levees.
  • Zoning and Land Use Planning - Restricting development in high-risk coastal zones to minimize exposure to storm surges and tides.
  • Public Education - Raising awareness and educating communities about the risks and appropriate response measures during storm events.

Flood protection products are essential in preparing for the destructive forces of storm surges and storm tides. These products, such as flood panels, barriers, and levees, provide critical defense by preventing water from inundating properties. 

Effective flood protection not only preserves property and reduces economic losses but also enhances the safety and resilience of communities facing the threat of coastal storms. 

Choosing Flood Panels For Your Property

Flood Risk America’s flood panels are designed to provide robust protection against the damaging effects of storm surges and storm tides. These panels are engineered to safeguard properties by preventing water intrusion and mitigating the impact of flooding. 

Here’s how they work and the benefits they offer:

Design and Functionality

  • Waterproof Barriers - Flood panels act as impermeable barriers that block water from entering buildings. They are constructed from durable, marine-grade materials that can withstand the immense pressure and force exerted by storm surges and high tides.
  • Custom Fit - The panels are customized to fit the specific dimensions and openings of a property, including doors, windows, and other vulnerable entry points. This ensures a tight seal and comprehensive protection against water ingress.
  • Ease of Installation - Flood panels are designed for quick and easy installation, often featuring interlocking systems or quick-release mechanisms that allow property owners to deploy them swiftly as a storm approaches.
  • Structural Reinforcement - Some flood panels are integrated into the structural framework of the building, providing additional reinforcement to withstand the dynamic forces of storm surges and waves.


  • Preventing Flood Damage - By blocking the entry of floodwaters, the panels prevent water damage to interiors, furnishings, electrical systems, and other critical components of a property.
  • Cost-Effective Protection - Investing in flood panels can be more cost-effective in the long term compared to the high costs of repairing flood damage and replacing damaged property.
  • Enhanced Safety - Protecting buildings from floodwaters helps ensure the safety of occupants, reducing the risk of injury or loss of life during severe weather events.
  • Versatility and Adaptability - Flood panels can be used in various types of properties, including residential homes, commercial buildings, and critical infrastructure like hospitals and power plants.
  • Environmental Resilience - By preventing erosion and sediment displacement, flood panels contribute to the stability of the surrounding environment, protecting natural landscapes and ecosystems.

Applications and Effectiveness

  • Residential Use - Homeowners can install flood panels to protect against basement flooding and damage to ground-level living spaces. This is especially beneficial in areas prone to hurricanes and tropical storms.
  • Commercial and Industrial Properties - Businesses can safeguard their premises, inventory, and operational infrastructure, ensuring continuity and minimizing downtime after a storm.
  • Public Infrastructure -  Critical facilities, such as water treatment plants, electrical substations, and emergency response centers, can maintain operational integrity during and after severe weather events.

Case Studies and Real-World Applications

Flood Risk America’s flood panels have been deployed in various regions to protect against storm surges and tides. Real-world applications have demonstrated their effectiveness in preventing flood damage during major storm events, such as hurricanes and coastal storms.

Flood protection products are essential in preparing for the destructive forces of storm surges and storm tides. Effective flood protection not only preserves property and reduces economic losses but also enhances the safety and resilience of communities facing the threat of coastal storms.