Most of the damage from Hurricane Sandy is expected to come from the storm surge, explains Marc Perlin, a professor of ocean engineering at the University of Michigan. To understand what a storm surge is, imagine blowing air onto a plate of water. As the air crossed the surface, it would push the water and pile it up on the far end.
In the case of a storm, the surge also increases the height of waves. The waves superimposed on the surge cause additional damage,
Perlin expresses concern that if the storm stalls on the coast and the surge remains for an extended period of time, even more damage could result.
Because of the counterclockwise rotation of Sandy, places to the storm’s north will experience a greater surge than places to its south. While high-rises are not particularly vulnerable, beaches and other structures are.
ABOUT THE PROFESSOR. Marc Perlin has studied storm surges to validate prediction models. He is director of the U-M Hydrodynamics Lab, and a professor in the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan.