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NYC Hazards: Storm Surge

What is Storm Surge?

Storm surge refers to the “dome” of ocean water propelled by the winds and low barometric pressure of a hurricane. Storm surge from hurricanes have been known to destroy large buildings and communities close to the coastline.

Storm Surge and New York City

New York City collaborates with federal and state agencies to collect information about how hurricane storm surge might affect the region.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that New York City’s low-lying, heavily populated neighborhoods are more exposed to the threat of coastal flooding in a hurricane than most people realized.

Storm surge at Rockaway   Beach, 1991
Storm surge at Rockaway Beach, 1991
(photo credit: Jonathan Gaska, Queens CB 14)

Large areas of southern Queens, southern Brooklyn, the lower east and west sides of Manhattan, and the perimeter of Staten Island could all suffer damage from a hurricane’s storm surge. In addition, storm surge from a strong hurricane would not be limited to waterfront properties and could conceivably push miles inland in some areas. New York City’s unique geography — located at a “bend” in the coastline between New Jersey and Long Island — makes it especially vulnerable.

Even a low-level hurricane that makes landfall near New York City could wash ocean waters over large sections of some coastal neighborhoods.

Storm surge can make landfall five hours before the hurricane itself. It can also take place after a hurricane has moved away from the city, as high seas slump back into confined spaces like Long Island Sound.

Learn about New York City’s hurricane evacuation zones

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