Storm surge model used across the country developed right here in the East

MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (WNCT) – Storm surge is an abnormal rise in the water level of a body of water caused by winds from a hurricane or tropical storm.

“Well over half the deaths that occur due to tropical storms are due to the water and the storm surge that accompanies them,” says Dr. Rick Luettich, director of the UNC Institute of Marine Sciences in Morehead City. “It’s a much less forgiving aspect of the storm yet not one we think about.”

For the past 25 years, Dr. Rick Luettich has crafted a storm surge model, called ADCIRC, that has become the gold standard across the country.

“We’ve worked with agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA to also define risk areas, and in terms of the Army Corps, to design protection,” says Luettich.

Luettich has had a big part in helping the Corps design a new levee system to protect New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. But the model is also useful in the East. FEMA uses the data to draw 100-year flood maps near the coast and NOAA is using it more and more to predict storm surge.

“They predict how high the water will get,” says Luettich. “They predict where the storm surge will go. They also predict what the waves will do. And so they help round out the picture if you will of when a tropical storm comes to shore.”

Rather than relying on a single forecast during an approaching storm, the ADCIRC model gives a range of possible outcomes to help local leaders make the best decisions to help keep you safe.

The ADCIRC model creates a storm surge forecast, primarily for the North Carolina coast, twice a day. That daily forecast is available here.

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