Sandy onshore deposits from tsunamis are difficult to distinguish from storm deposits, which makes it difficult to assess coastal hazards from the geological record. Here we analyse environmental DNA from microbial communities preserved in known tsunami and storm-deposited sediments and intercalating soils and non-marine sediments near Cuddalore, India, and Phra Thong Island, Thailand. Both sites were impacted by the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and a subsequent storm flooding event (2011 Cyclone Thane at Cuddalore and a 2007 storm at Phra Thong Island). We show that the microbial communities in the overwash deposits are significantly different from soil and sediments that are not derived by overwash processes at both locations. Our method also successfully discriminates between modern tsunami deposits and storm deposits. We suggest molecular techniques have the potential to accurately discriminate overwash deposits from catastrophic natural events.