U.S. Storm Surge Records

By Jeffrey Masters, Ph.D. — Director of Meteorology, Weather Underground, Inc.

The highest documented storm surge in the U.S. occurred in 2005 during Hurricane Katrina, when Pass Christian, MS, recorded a 27.8 foot storm surge above mean sea level. The highest High Water Mark on record for a U.S. hurricane occurred in Biloxi, MS during Katrina, where a High Water Mark of 34.1 feet above mean sea level was recorded on the outside of the Beau Rivage Lighthouse (Figure 1). The surge was 22 feet high in Biloxi, so the combination of the tide (about 1 foot) and 11-foot waves on top of the storm surge created the 34.1-foot high water mark.

Figure 1

Figure 1. A survey team found a damage trimline on the exterior of the Beau Rivage Lighthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi, at an elevation of 34.1 feet above mean sea level. This represents the highest High Water Mark ever recorded for an Atlantic Hurricane. Image credit: Hermann Fritz, Georgia Tech University.

Highest Theoretical U.S. Storm Surge

The highest theoretical storm surge produced by NOAA's SLOSH model for the U.S. is 38.5 feet above mean sea level, for a Category 4 hurricane hitting New Bedford, Massachussets. New Bedford lies near the end of a narrow bay, and narrow bays and river estuaries can act as funnels that focus the storm surge to extreme heights if the hurricane's direction of motion is aligned so that the surge propagates up the bottleneck. Storm surges in excess of 32 feet are possible at New York City; New Bedford and Buzzard's Bay, Massachussets; Florida's Apalachee Bay; the coast north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and in St. Louis Bay in Mississippi.

Figure 2

Figure 2. The four regions of the U.S. coast theoretically prone to storm surges in excess of 33 feet at the coast. These Maximum of the Maximum Envelope Of Waters (MOM) SLOSH model plots are for a maximum strength hurricane hitting at high tide. A theoretical peak storm surge of 33 - 34 feet (pink colors) is predicted by the SLOSH model for New York City near the JFK Airport (upper left), for the Big Bend region of the Florida Gulf Coast (lower right), and for the Intracoastal Waterway north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (lower left). The highest theoretical surge occurs at New Bedford, Massachussets (upper right), 38.5 feet for a Category 4 hurricane.

U.S. City Records

If you find references for the highest storm surge on record for a U.S. city not listed here, send the info (and URL documenting the record), to: jmasters@wunderground.com.

Alabama

  • Mobile:
  • 11.6', July 5, 1916 Hurricane
  • 11.45', Hurricane Katrina, 2005

  • Dauphin Island:
  • 9.2', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 7.7', July 5, 1916 Hurricane

  • Gulf Shores:
  • 11.8', September 1906 hurricane
  • 9.1', Hurricane Camille, 1969

Florida

  • Coconut Grove:
  • 15', Great Miami Hurricane of 1926

Louisiana

  • New Orleans Lakefront Airport:
  • 11.8', Hurricane Katrina, 2005

  • Grand Isle:
  • 12.0', Hurricane Katrina, 2005

  • Port Fourchon:
  • 8.0', Hurricane Katrina, 2005

Mississippi

  • Bay St. Louis:
  • 25.0', Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • 21.7', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 15.2', September 1947 Hurricane

  • Pass Christian:
  • 27.8', Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • 22.6', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 13.4', September 1947 Hurricane

  • Long Beach:
  • 25.7', Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • 21.6', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 14.0', September 1947 Hurricane

  • Gulfport:
  • 24.5', Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • 21.0', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 14.0', September 1947 Hurricane

  • Biloxi:
  • 22.0', Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • 19.5', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 11.1', September 1947 Hurricane

  • Pascagoula:
  • 18.0', Hurricane Katrina, 2005
  • 11.8', Hurricane Camille, 1969
  • 9.0', September 1947 Hurricane

New Jersey

Texas

  • Port Lavaca:
  • 22.8', Hurricane Carla, 1961

  • Corpus Christi:
  • 12', Atlantic-Gulf Hurricane of 1919

Virginia

North Carolina

Sources

Weather Underground Storm Surge Articles

Storm Surge Safety Actions

  • Minimize the distance you must travel to reach a safe location; the further you drive the higher the likelihood of encountering traffic congestion and other problems on the roadways.

  • Select the nearest possible evacuation destination, preferably within your local area, and map out your route. Do not get on the road without a planned route, or a place to go.

  • Choose the home of the closest friend or relative outside a designated evacuation zone and discuss your plan with them before hurricane season.

  • You may also choose a hotel/motel outside of the vulnerable area.

  • If neither of these options is available, consider the closest possible public shelter, preferably within your local area.

  • Use the evacuation routes designated by authorities and, if possible, become familiar with your route by driving it before an evacuation order is issued.

  • Contact your local emergency management office to register or get information regarding anyone in your household whom may require special assistance in order to evacuate.

  • Prepare a separate pet plan, most public shelters do not accept pets.

  • Prepare your home prior to leaving by boarding up doors and windows, securing or moving indoors all yard objects, and turning off all utilities.

  • Before leaving, fill your car with gas and withdraw extra money from the ATM.

  • Take all prescription medicines and special medical items, such as glasses and diapers.

  • If your family evacuation plan includes an RV, boat or trailer, leave early. Do not wait until the evacuation order or exodus is well underway to start your trip.

  • If you live in an evacuation zone and are ordered to evacuate by state or local officials, do so as quickly as possible. Do not wait or delay your departure, to do so will only increase your chances of being stuck in traffic, or even worse, not being able to get out at all.

  • Expect traffic congestion and delays during evacuations. Expect and plan for significantly longer travel times than normal to reach your family's intended destination.

  • Stay tuned to a local radio or television station and listen carefully for any advisories or specific instructions from local officials. Monitor your NOAA Weather Radio.

Source: NOAA

Hurricane Preparedness

National Hurricane Center

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention