New Technology Changes Approach to Hurricane Evacuations

New technology is allowing emergency officials in North Carolina to develop more effective evacuation plans in the case of a hurricane. New evacuation zones have been developed, taking into account new data available about tidal surges when hurricanes hit the coastline. Also being considered are increased population figures and how they will affect evacuation efforts. The closer to the coast a resident lives will have an impact on how long it will take them to get out of the storm surge’s range, and the more people that have to be evacuated from that area, the longer an evacuation will take overall, according to

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) researchers recently lead the Coastal and Inland Flooding Observation and Warning (CI-FLOW) project, “a total water level prediction system in North Carolina.” CI-FLOW is the first system to capture complex interaction between tides, waves, and storm surge to produce total water level simulations. As a result, gone are the days when the strength of the hurricane was a big determining factor on whether to evacuate. Now, expected surges from hurricanes will be a deciding factor, more so than hurricane strength, in future evacuations. With better models on the impact of a storm surge and how far inland it can be expected to go, officials are able to set up more accurate evacuation zones.

As an example, Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a Category 3 Hurricane and had a storm surge of more than 25 feet, whereas Hurricane Charlie hit the coast of Florida as a Category 4 storm, but only had a storm surge of 6 feet. A big difference, and it shows that each storm is individual and requires officials to calculate the expected impact per storm while making evacuation plans accordingly. This new technology allows that.

Another big change is that the governor will no longer give out a voluntary call for evacuation, followed by a call for a mandatory one. Now, the only evacuation that will be issued will be mandatory and will rely on a formula that looks at the strength of the hurricane, its expected storm surge, and where it is more than likely to make landfall.

The greatest challenge is not issuing the evacuation orders on time, or even evacuating the correct zones ahead of a hurricane. Getting residents to comply with evacuation orders is the biggest challenge.

For more information about this new storm surge technology, visit: