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Both floods and storm surge involve significant amounts of water, but their characteristics and behavior are quite distinct. In 2018, Market and Water Streets in Wilmington, North Carolina, experienced significant flooding from storm surges. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Flooding is the most common natural disaster in the United States, with every state having experienced some aspect of it in recent years. Storm surge flooding, which occurs particularly in coastal areas as the result of offshore winds from tropical storms, has great potential to impact both personal safety and property.

Let’s examine flooding and storm surges and identify their unique characteristics as well as measures taken to help protect people and property from their effects. First, we will address the difference between general flooding and storm surge flooding. While they both involve water, their characteristics — including when and where they typically occur — are quite different.