What to Do in the Event of a Storm Surge

Storm surge is the abnormal rise of water associated with tropical cyclones. Storm surge is not a giant wall of water, but rather a methodical, rapid rise of water that will occur along the ocean and rivers.


Review your five steps on your Pathways to Preparedness

Know your maps; know if you live in a storm surge zone.

The potential storm surge flooding map is different from FEMA flood insurance rate maps and hurricane evacuation zone maps.


Run from the water, hide from the wind. Evacuate when directed.

Shelter in a sturdy structure outside of the storm surge zone.

Go tens of miles, not hundreds of miles, to find your safe shelter.


Keep children out of the water.

Don’t attempt to drive through flooded roads – turn around, don’t drown.

Photograph damage to your property for insurance purposes.

Know Your Terms

Conditions possible within 48 hours
Conditions are expected within 36 hours

Quick Facts

  • Storm surge is the number one concern with any storm, and the primary reason to evacuate.
  • Storm surge is the greatest threat to life and property from a tropical cyclone.
  • It poses a significant threat for drowning.
  • Storm surge can sometimes cut off evacuation routes, so do not delay leaving if an evacuation order for your area has been issued.
  • Storm surge can cause water levels in rivers to rise and cover adjacent roadways. This can affect causeway approaches, which would isolate the barrier islands.
  • Strength of storm is not related to depth of storm surge. Weak storms can produce high surge, and strong storms can result in low storms.
  • Storm surge can also occur with non-tropical storms, like Nor’easters and other winter storms.

Potential Impacts

The greatest threats posed by a hurricane or a tropical storm to Brevard County are storm surge along the barrier islands. The extent of storm surge could impact all of the barrier island communities, as well as the Indian River Lagoon System from the Sebastian River Inlet, along Melbourne up to Cocoa, and northward past Titusville; and including the Banana River shoreline to the county’s northern boundary. Additional potential effects of storm surge damage to Brevard County are listed below:

  • Water damage to homes, businesses, and coastal lands; and inland flooding.
  • The combination of high tides and wind action can create coastal flooding and saltwater inundation of the barrier islands.
  • Thousands of structures within these areas would be vulnerable to storm surge and accompanying wave action through a range of impacts, including erosion of the sand beneath the structure causing it to collapse, physical pressure that would damage the structure or move it off its foundation, and/or receive inundation from surge.
  • Mobile and manufactured home parks on the barrier islands could see devastating impacts due to storm surge. These mobile and manufactured homes could be moved off of their supports, impacting roadways and other residences in the vicinity.

Historic Events

In October 2016, Brevard County experienced storm surge around 4 feet due to Hurricane Matthew, and over $24 million in beach erosion.

  • Hurricane David (September 3, 1979) brought a storm surge of only 2 to 4 feet, due to its lack of strengthening and the obtuse angle at which it hit.
  • Hurricane Erin (1995) generated a 2 to 4 feet of storm tide during the Florida east coast landfall.
  • 2004 Hurricane Frances produced storm surge around 8 feet near Sebastian Inlet and 6 feet in Cocoa Beach.
  • Hurricane Jeanne which produced a storm surge of 3.8 feet above normal astronomical tide levels. Storm surge of up to 6 feet above normal tides likely occurred along the Florida east coast from the vicinity of Melbourne southward to Fort Pierce.
  • Tropical Storm Fay was an extreme rainfall event breaking a 50-year record in 2008 with 27.65 inches of rain as recorded in Melbourne, it produced minimal storm surge of 1-2 feet above National Geodetic Vertical Datum (NGVD).
  • In 2012, storms Beryl, Sandy and Debby brought additional surge on top of the astronomical high tides as recorded at the Trident Pier in Port Canaveral.
  • October 26, 2012, Hurricane Sandy had the worst effect on the coast of Brevard bringing an additional 2.49 feet to the high tide.
  • Hurricane Matthew (2016): 3-4 FT in Brevard County.
  • Hurricane Irma (2017): 3-5 FT from Cape Canaveral northward, and 2-3 FT south of Cape Canaveral. 
  • Hurricane Dorian (2019): 2-3 FT along Brevard's coastline.
  • Hurricane Isaias (2020): 1-1.5 FT along the entire ECFL coast (no noteworthy impacts occurred).
  • Tropical Storm Eta (2020): 1-2 FT along the entire ECFL coast (no impacts as peak surge was during low tide). 

Information on Dealing with These Hazards