Hurricane Irma, which started off in the Caribbean, has caused a great deal of devastation throughout the region. In fact, it’s been one of the most destructive Atlantic Ocean hurricanes in history. Soon after the hurricane began generating powerful winds of over 185 mph, experts warned that the storm was set to reach the state of Florida and that’s exactly what happened.
Violent winds traveled from the Caribbean into southwest Florida over the weekend, downing power lines and destroying homes. Now experts are saying that the hurricane will move upwards towards the west coast.
Although the hurricane has been unprecedented in terms of the violent winds it has produced, no one – not even meteorologists – were expecting it to change the shape of the ocean!
The hurricane has been such a mighty force that it has managed to essentially swallow water away from the shorelines in Tampa Bay, Florida, the Bahamas and other areas in the region. This has turned the ocean into quite a spectacle in these areas, with local residents reacting in disbelief to the barren state of nearby beaches. It almost appears that the ocean water around these beaches has disappeared!
Many are now bringing their dogs to the beaches affected by this phenomenon. As you can see, these dogs joyfully play around in the soggy sand where the water had once ebbed and flowed. It’s a nice change to see some happiness come from the storm, rather than heartbreak and tragedy.
But what exactly has caused the loss of water around these particular beaches? Well, the low atmospheric pressure that Hurricane Irma’s violent winds have caused are in fact draining the beaches of their water.
Meteorologist Angela Fritzclarified the matter in The Washington Post:
“In the center of the storm, where the pressure is lowest and the winds are converging, water piles up. Low pressure is basically a sucking mechanism in the sense that it draws the air inward. When the pressure is exceptionally low and the winds are very strong, it can create a bulge of ocean water under the centre of the storm.”
Essentially the hurricane is so powerful that it is swallowing water from one area and transporting it hundreds of miles away. This phenomenon is also known as a storm surge.
Another Meteorologist, Ben Gelber, explains the phenomenon in greater detail:
“Hurricane Irma produced extraordinarily low air pressure (27.0 inches) approaching the Leeward Islands, when maximum sustained winds reached 185 mph for a record 37 consecutive hours on Sept. 5-6.”
“This exceptionally low pressure acting as a suction force, drawing air and water upwards in the circulation center. Combined with powerful winds driving water farther offshore, sea level lowered dramatically, exposing the ocean bottom. This is known as a ‘hurricane bulge’ and is a rare phenomenon that will only last a short time, before returning to normal.”
On Saturday, videos posted from the Bahamas and Tampa Bay highlighted the extent to which the ocean’s waters had been drained:
No one expected beaches to be drained of their water in the regions that were badly affected by Hurricane Irma. When the waters return, however, experts have warned that the surrounding areas could be vulnerable to further floods.
We can only hope effective action is being taken to reduce the impact of these floods, so that the locals don’t have to suffer from further destruction.