HURRICANE CENTRAL - The population along the gulf has increased by one-third in the last 20 years, but since the coastline is less than ten feet above sea level, it makes much of Southwest Florida vulnerable to storm surge.
"Storm surge is the most deadly element of a hurricane landfall and you don't need to be under a hurricane warning or a watch to be impacted by storm surge," Brian LaMarre with the National Weather Service in Tampa told us.
Caused by wind forcing seawater onshore, storm surge can penetrate many miles inland with the worst surge found in the front right quadrant of a storm.
Hurricane Katrina's assault on the Gulf Coast was especially devastating because the storm was moving due north. Wind circulates counter-clockwise around the eye, meaning the wind in the front right quadrant was coming from the south forcing water onshore six to 12 miles inland along the Mississippi Coast.
To better explain the power of the Gulf, salt water moving at just five miles per hour has the same energy as an EF-3 tornado with a 137 mph wind.
"No home is meant to withstand the force of moving water in storm surge," said retired National Hurricane Center Director, Bill Read.
Read says if you are in an evacuation zone, you are in an area prone to flooding from storm surge and when you are ordered to evacuate, heed that warning.
"People need to take the responsibility seriously. You've chosen to live in a community along the water for many reasons, but you need to be aware that you are the one person responsible for taking the right actions," he said.