NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "One thing we've learned over the last 10-to-20 years, is that you don't have to have hurricane winds to have storm surge," says FOX 8 Chief Meteorologist David Bernard.
In southeast Louisiana, it's often storm surge that creates the most damage and even loss of life. At this year's National Hurricane Conference, there's interest in a new product that will be used this upcoming season by the National Hurricane Center.
"For years, we've used wind as a measure of hurricane watches and warning, which was good, but his particular product goes one step further," says Planning Chair of the Hurricane Conference John Wilson.
The new tool identifies areas where storm surge will be the greatest danger.
"Often time, there would be areas that wouldn't have been included in a hurricane watch or warning, but they suffered significant damage from storm surge waters," says Bernard.
Storm surge will now have its' own watches and warning, isolating the threat.
"So, it's a way to convey the risks of storm surge height where people live, work and play," says Wilson.
Bernard points out the importance of looking at storm surge versus the force of wind.
"During a category one storm, like Hurricane Issac, we had severe flooding in Plaquemines Parish and also in the River Parishes and that was a prime example of a slow moving storm that caused a tremendous amount of flooding," says Bernard.
The new product will not breakdown storm surge watches and warnings by individual neighborhoods, but rather by large areas, like the East Bank versus the West Bank. If forecasters think levees will be over topped, then they'll issue a storm surge watch or warning for that area.
"Remember, they can't forecast if there's going to be a breach in the levee. In addition, they can't forecast if we have significant rain water and that hampers the pumps or because of wide spread power outages," says Bernard.
"It's designed to help you understand the risks better," says Wilson.
It's also an added tool for weather experts to predict the dangers of a hurricane in southeast Louisiana.