LEE COUNTY, Fla. - New storm surge maps released today have Southwest Florida emergency officials looking closely at the potential impact of a landfalling hurricane.
In Lee County, an estimated 20 percent more of inland areas could be at risk in a historically large hurricane.
Lee County Public Safety director John Wilson says the maps are a "worst of the worst" case scenario.
"These should not be taken as the Gospel," Wilson told WINK News.
The new maps are different from previous versions in that they include the potential impact of significantly larger storms, such as Hurricane Katrina.
Critics say it's hard to get an accurate understanding of the risk without an average storm comparison.
Others say the maps are an important eye-opener, given the number of record-setting storms in recent years.
Storm surge is often the deadliest aspect of a hurricane, and one of the hardest elements to predict.
Wilson and others say the maps will require further study and analysis before they can be used effectively. In the long run, the maps could help improve evacuation times and emergency shelter locations.
Wilson says the maps are informational and will not impact insurance rates.