Hurricanes are fantastically powerful events. Watching Hurricane Irma churn across the Northern Caribbean and up the west coast of Florida certainly puts the awesome power of wind and water into perspective. Storms like this one are devastating for the unfortunate people who find themselves in the way.
One of the most damaging elements of powerful hurricanes is their ability to move huge quantities of ocean water. Irma, at one point a category five hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, is causing tidal surges as high as three metres. For low-lying Caribbean islands or coastal Florida, this means that waves and flooding can reach far inland and cause enormous damage.
One of the quirks of a powerful hurricane is the ability to not only push water but also pull it into its core. Over the past several days, news outlets across the region have reported on bays being emptied as water is drawn towards the intense low pressure area at the center of Irma. First it happened in The Bahamas. Then, as Irma moved closer to Florida, it happened again around Tampa Bay. All this seawater, millions and millions of litres, piles up in the center of the storm, creating a huge bulge.
People on shore have been predictably awestruck. In this article, there are several photos of people standing on the muddy floor of Hillsborough Bay taking selfies. Emergency management officials at the National Weather Service became so concerned that people could be trapped as water rapidly returned, they issued a flash flood warning for southwestern Florida.
From all of us at LuminUltra, best wishes to everyone affected by Irma. Stay safe.