Storm surge discussed at RI hurricane conference

Superstorm Sandy pounded the coast and before that, Hurricane Irene took down trees and utilities for half of Southern New England.

Hurricanes Bob and Gloria pale in comparison to the direct hits from the Hurricane of 1938 and Hurricane Carol in 1954. Both made landfall over central Long Island and Connecticut, the worst case scenario for Rhode Island and Southeast Massachusetts.

"I worry about complacency setting in no matter how long it's been since people have experienced the last hurricane. Any year, no matter what has happened previously, you can have a hurricane or tropical storm impact you in ways that you've never been impacted before," said Dr. Rick Knabb, director of the National Hurricane Center.

Knabb spoke at the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency's annual Hurricane and Preparedness Conference on Friday in Warwick.

Special Section: Hurricanes

In a major hurricane, coastal communities like Warwick and Barrington will be mostly under water from storm surge.

"Storm surge is the leading cause of death in a hurricane," said Jamie Rhome, storm surge specialist at the NHC.

Knowing where you live keys directly into the new storm surge forecasts that will be issued with each named tropical advisory starting this year.

"If you haven't really though this through in a while, the place to start is to find out if you live in a hurricane evacuation zone, and if you do figure out where you're going to go and how you're going to get there," Knabb said.

Hurricane season started on June 1, but the active part of the season comes in the middle of August and runs through late September.