Hurricanes are some of the most terrifying, destructive weather phenomenon that happens on planet earth.
They often bring with them very high winds, a lot of rain, and even sometimes thunder and lightning. But what is hurricane flooding, and why should you be aware of it?
When people think of a hurricane, often the first thing they think of is high-wind speeds, but they don’t think of the sheer amount of water that hurricanes bring with them.
In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at hurricane flooding, some of its effects, and exactly how much flooding a hurricane can cause.
Let’s get into it…
What Is A Hurricane Flood?
A hurricane flood is simply a flood that is caused by the large amount of water and rainfall that a hurricane brings.
Hurricanes are often formed and developed over tropical waters, where they have warm updrafts that fuel them and allow them to thrive.
Being formed over the ocean, if they reach land they bring with them a huge amount of rain and water that can quickly cause flash floods and more extensive floods too.
Some hurricanes can bring torrential rain, in excess of 6 inches!
Flooding is the major threat from hurricanes for people living inland, as this amount of rainfall in a short space of time can cause many deaths and often does.
Flash flooding is defined as a rapid rise in water levels, and it can come incredibly quickly and seemingly out of nowhere due to the intense rainfall of a hurricane or tropical cyclone.
The amount of rainfall is not directly related to the strength of the hurricane, but instead the speed and size of the storm as well as the geographical region.
Slower moving and larger storms produce more rainfall, which increases the risk of hurricane flooding when it hits inland.
Do Hurricanes Cause Floods?
Yes, hurricanes do cause floods that can be incredibly damaging and cause many deaths.
In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey was a devastating category 4 hurricane that made landfall in Texas and Louisiana.
This hurricane caused catastrophic floods that destroyed homes, and businesses and was responsible for more than 100 deaths.
Similarly in August 2019, Hurricane Dorian was a category 5 hurricane that battered the Bahamas with flash floods and ferocious winds.
This hurricane was so strong that authorities urged people to find floatation devices and hammers in case they needed to break out of their attic.
The floods from Hurricane Dorian damaged over 13,000 homes and were responsible for at least five deaths,
The video footage and news reports that were released of the destruction of these hurricanes are simply terrifying.
With 6 feet deep water smashing people’s homes and many were left stranded swimming to the nearest escape route.
How Much Flooding Does A Hurricane Cause?
Some powerful hurricanes and some tropical storms can produce as much rainfall as 6 to 12 inches or more in a very short space of time.
This can result in severe flash floods, as well as major floods that last for days or even weeks sometimes.
Aside from the rainfall that hurricanes bring with them, they can also cause large waves on top of the surge which causes damage to sea defenses.
These large waves can crash onto the shoreline and over the top of cliff faces, which adds to the risk of flooding and the severity of the floods.
It’s important to always beware of where you are situated geographically if you live in a hurricane-prone location.
Areas that are near the coast will be the most affected by floods, but as you move further inland the floods will likely be less intense.
How Do Hurricanes Actually Cause Flooding?
There are three main ways that hurricanes cause flooding when they reach inland, with them all being as dangerous and severe as each other.
According to the National Hurricane Center (NHC), a storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property during a hurricane.
It poses a significant threat to drowning and can knock people off their feet quickly when they happen.
A storm surge takes place when strong winds from a hurricane push ocean waters ashore. This makes the sea level rise quickly and can cause large waves to wash over the shoreline and take people out.
Storm surges often happen with little warning, often within minutes, leaving you with no time to prepare or take action if you have not already evacuated.
A storm tide is what happens when a storm surge takes place during high tide.
A storm tide is the total height of seawater that comes ashore, this is calculated by adding the normal tide and storm surge water levels together.
Storm tides can result in water elevations that are much higher than a storm surge alone, oftentimes 20 feet or more says the NHC.
The torrential rains that come down from a hurricane are enough to cause lakes, rivers, and streams to flood within a matter of minutes.
This level of water in a short space of time can wash away cars, damage property, and combined with high winds can wipe people off their feet.
Slow-moving hurricanes are the most likely to cause severe flooding, this is because they are capable of inundating one small space for a prolonged period of time.
The Effects Of Hurricane Floods
The effects of hurricane flooding can be catastrophic and cause a lot of damage.
As floods from hurricanes can often come unexpectedly, they take people by surprise, meaning they often have little time to prepare.
Hurricane floods can be so severe that they cause many human deaths during storms. As mentioned earlier, storm surges can wipe people off their feet as they come as a surprise to many
Driving accidents are also a cause of human deaths during floods, as the water can wash cars over ledges and the poor visibility during heavy rainfall can cause drivers to crash.
The floods caused by a hurricane can be a disaster for the surrounding environment.
Flash floods can wash chemicals and sewage into the waters, this can cause wildlife to die and cause health implications for humans who drink the water too.
During a storm surge, the waters can be so strong and powerful that they knock over trees, eroding cliffs, and kill plants.
Property & Business
Hurricane flooding can cause financial ruin to many people who own property and businesses in the area of the floods.
As the water washes into people’s homes and businesses, the damage is exponential with any businesses being totally wiped out and having to close.
Houses can fall down, businesses need to close until the flood clears and electronic equipment will break.
Floods caused by hurricanes can take years for some businesses to recover from, which has a long-lasting effect on the local economy.
Floods cause damage to natural ecosystems and affect many types of animals’ ability to eat food.
Natural watering holes can be flooded and polluted, which can kill thousands of fish, as well as other animals who rely on their watering hole for survival.
Natural habitats can be completely ruined, forcing many animals to relocate and start fresh in new locations.
Preparing For A Hurricane Flood
The good news is that our technology is getting better and better all of the time, and we are now able to predict hurricanes before they happen.
This gives people enough time to evacuate the potentially affected areas, and also allows people to prepare for a hurricane.
One of the best ways to prepare for a hurricane flood is to educate yourself on the damage a flood can cause as well as look at safety measures you can put in place.
Below are some effective ways you can prepare for a hurricane flood:
- Make a disaster and evacuation plan with your family
- Plan your evacuation – some hurricane floods can be so severe that you simply need to leave the area, so prepare to do this and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Map out areas you can go to which are located on high ground
- Protect your pets – ensuring your pets are safe during a hurricane flood is important, do not forget about your furry friends
- Clean out your gutters
- Install water alarms
- Create an emergency kit to take with you in case anyone gets injured
- Consider a flood insurance policy – this will help you recover the cost of damages to your home in the event of a hurricane flood. It’s worth considering if you live in a hurricane-prone area
- Safeguard important documents and sentimental items
If you are instructed to evacuate, then you should do so immediately. Hurricane floods can be incredibly dangerous, so you should follow evacuation instructions without hesitation.
Being prepared for a hurricane and putting some safety measures in place may help you stay safe during the flood if one strikes.
Consider putting some of these actions into place today if you are in a hurricane-prone area, as you’ll be thankful you did if a hurricane comes.
There is no doubt that hurricanes are some of the most dangerous and frightening natural weather events that occur.
The collateral damage that can happen due to hurricanes and hurricane flooding is immense.
Hopefully, this post has been helpful and you’ve learned something today about the way flooding from a hurricane can impact lives, property, businesses, and more.
Being as cautious and prepared as possible is the best way to stay safe in the event of a flood.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you have enjoyed it feel free to stick around and learn more about hurricanes and other extreme weather phenomena.
Hey, I’m Sam – the founder of GustyPlanet. I’ve had a fascination with all things weather for as long as I can remember. I witnessed my first tornado at the age of 6, and since then became an avid storm chaser that is hooked on learning as much as I can about extreme weather. This blog was created to share my knowledge and to expand and delve deeper into the wonderful world of weather phenomena. I hope you enjoy your stay here and thanks for visiting.