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As Ike made clear, better storm-surge forecasting can't come soon enough

Since 2005, scientists have redoubled research to improve understanding of
the surge hazard.

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Storm surges, which can inflict some of the worst damage that comes with hurricanes, are getting extra attention these days from scientists working to better understand – and predict – the phenomena.

Scientists are setting up arrays of sensors and putting forecast models through their paces in hopes of giving emergency personnel better information about surge hazards from a given storm. Their research also holds potential for helping planners evaluate options for improving coastal defenses against storm surges.

Research began to rise in 2004, when four hurricanes crisscrossed Florida, but hurricane Katrina in 2005 provided the biggest jolt, says Rick Luettich, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Every year out from a natural disaster, the national attention span wanes a bit," he says. "We just hadn't had a major catastrophe from hurricane storm surge" in many years. "Katrina rang a whole bunch of chimes."

That event gave the endeavor a fresh sense of urgency – and unleashed new funding to pay for the work, he says.

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