New GIS map shows hurricane storm surge risk

VDEM Press Release

10501 Trade Court
Richmond, Virginia 23226


Sept. 17, 2014

CONTACT: Dawn Eischen
(804)  897-9730 or (804) 674-2400

New GIS map shows hurricane storm surge risk

Map gives coastal residents and visitors additional information tool during hurricane season

RICHMOND, Va. – When evacuations are ordered because of an approaching tropical storm system, it’s not just the wind that concerns emergency officials – it’s rising water called storm surge. A new preparedness tool created by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management helps people in Virginia find their storm surge risk.

The Geographic Information System (GIS) map allows users to find the maximum storm surge risk at their current location or the risk of an address location entered into the search bar.

“We want to be sure our coastal residents and visitors understand what this map will do, and what it won’t do,” said Jeff Stern, state coordinator of emergency management. “The map will let people see what storm surge could do in a worst case scenario. But it’s not a real-time map, so people still need to listen carefully for local evacuation instructions during an actual storm.”

Storm surge is the abnormal and dangerous rise of water, over and above the tide, that is pushed to shore by strong winds from a hurricane or tropical storm system. The storm surge zones of the GIS map show the maximum coastal area in Virginia that may be inundated by a hurricane generating a surge of a given value.

“Historically, 90 percent of the time, it’s the inundation of water that kills, not the wind,” said Stern. “We created this map for people to get an idea of what surging water could mean in their communities so they will pay closer attention when hurricane season storms are forecast.”

Every storm is different, and every forecast is different, so the exact impact of a particular storm may not reflect the modeled storm surge shown on the GIS map. The map is only a projection, but it can be used as one tool to better understand storm surge and the risk to Virginia coastal communities.

The localities shown on the map include the counties of Accomack, Gloucester, Isle of Wight, Lancaster, Mathews, Middlesex, Northampton, Northumberland, Richmond, Surry, Westmoreland and York, and the cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach.

The map is available in English and Spanish at To use the map, click on the “find my location” button or type in an address next to the magnifying glass. Click on the evacuation routes and storm surge zones to identify them.

The data used to create the new GIS map came from the Virginia Hurricane Evacuation Study, a joint effort by VDEM, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and coastal localities. Detailed information about a specific locality and whether a property is in a storm surge area can be obtained by contacting your local emergency management office.

Additional storm surge and hurricane season resources:



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