On Monday morning, with Hurricane Katrina coming on shore on the Gulf Coast, MSNBC's Sean McLaughlin demonstrated the concept of storm surge. To read an excerpt of his demonstration, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.
Let's talk about storm surge. It's the number one cause of all deaths associated with hurricanes. Ninety percent of all deaths occur during the storm surge.
One thing to compare it to is when you splash your kids in the pool, you push the water forward -- that's storm surge. Your hands pushing the water forward are exactly what hurricane winds will do at the surface of a storm.
Video: Explaining storm surges If we look at the topography of New Orleans. It's a city inside of a bowl with the seawalls, levees and pumps keeping the water out.
Most of New Orleans is anywhere from 6-10 feet under sea level.
Six feet was the storm surge for Hurricane Charley, and many of you saw the kind of devastation that caused in Punta Gorda, Fla.
Seventeen feet was the storm surge of Hurricane Andrew.
From the floor to the ceiling at MSNBC's studios -- that's the wall of water that we could be talking about in certain areas.
With the strength of Katrina's winds, the storm surge could go in as far as 500 yards to a quarter or even half mile from shore.
The water will not just go away once it hits, especially in a place like New Orleans. If the pumps get completely overrun ... it would just stay there and gain pollution, gasoline, oil. They were talking about how coffins could be unearthed from cemeteries. It would be an absolute mess.
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