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Hurricane Special: National Storm Surge Forecast Model Updated, Increases Time Needed In Case Of Evacuation

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Storm surge is the most serious threat to life and property with any landfalling hurricane. As the sea level rises, these impacts are expected to become even more serious.

"The ocean is absolutely rising and it's going to continue to rise, which is going to cause greater problems and vulnerability to storm surge," said Jamie Rhome, who leads the storm surge unit at the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

In 2020, Hurricane Laura made landfall on Louisiana's southwest coast as a monstrous Category 4 storm.

"The big story with Laura was the really high [storm surge] forecast of 15 to 20 feet," said Rhome. "Then we attached the adjective 'un-survivable' to that which is harsh language you don't often see from the National Hurricane Center."

So, could a term like that ever be used here in South Florida, CBS4 meteorologist Jennifer Correa asked Rhome.

"Yeah absolutely. There are parts of southern Dade, a storm surge can push inland 10 to 15 miles. Certainly, penetrate Cutler Ridge, get into the areas and suburbs behind it," said Rhome

Such a threat like this calls for action by the NHC to have a more accurate forecasting tool. The storm surge unit has upgraded its forecast model in time for the 2021 hurricane season. This new upgrade will not only provide a more precise storm surge forecast but also increase evacuation times by 12 hours.

"Which doesn't seem like a lot but when it comes to evacuation decision making and the ability to pack your house and evacuate, 12 hours is an eternity," said Rhome.

The updated model will also help with eliminating unnecessary evacuations because as Rhome explains, "If you don't have to evacuate you're probably exposing yourself to greater risk by evacuating."

With that said, it is so important for residents to know whether they live in an evacuation zone, or not, and if they do, it is critical to know what zone they're in. To find out your evacuation zone, visit

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