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Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry

  • Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry - 41801896001 5574089323001 5574080169001 vs - Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry

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  • Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry - 41801896001 5572629440001 5572627364001 vs - Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry

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    Watch it: Hurricane Irma leaves Shell Point beach/bayfront bone dry

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Hurricane Irma may not have packed the same catastrophic punch in North Florida seen around the state, but many area residents will remember the phenomenon it caused.

Along the Gulf Coast, the storm’s winds pushed water off shore leaving huge swaths of sea floor high and dry. Images of a barren seabed from Tampa Bay up through Alabama were included in the flood of Irma related photos on social media.

It was something Larry Hess had never seen in 20 years living at Shell Point.

“The Saturday noon tide was low. And the Saturday afternoon tide never came in. So it stayed out,” Hess said Tuesday as he burned palm fronds strewn about his yard.

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“I’ve never seen it that low. The canal I’m on here was dry and it’s never been dry. You could have probably walked most of the way to Alligator Point.”

Well, technically, you might have been able to walk all along Florida’s west coast to the Alabama state line, at least for a brief period.

Tallahassee based meteorologist Parks Camp said the tide gauge at Shell Point bottomed out and couldn’t take a reading. The Ochlockonee River, which drained save for a small creek in the middle of the channel, measured more than 4 feet below the normal low tide level.

Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry - 41801896001 5571313156001 5571283215001 vs - Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry
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A video from Live Oak Island and Shell Point at 1:30 to 2 in North Florida. Winds estimated at 35 to 40 mph winds. No water in the bay and beach front is bone dry for 0.15 miles out.
Matt Thro

“As the winds get stronger, it pushes the water out more and more. Somewhere out in the ocean, the sea level is higher to compensate for that,” Camp said. “The tricky part is once the winds turn around and become onshore is when those waters come back in.”

By Monday midday – as Irma passed through the Big Bend – the tide bottomed out. By Tuesday morning, the tide returned to normal levels over the course of about seven hours.

While the fascinating phenomena compels people to walk along the dry seabed, the return of the water can be dangerous.

Near Steinhatchee, water rushed back in within an hour. Farther south, the returning flood was even quicker, Camp said.

Rich Lowe has lived in his mobile home on Shell Point for about 20 years. He stayed through Irma as others evacuated at the request of county emergency management.

Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry - 41822998001 5572688650001 5572662330001 vs - Disappearing waters of Hurricane Irma leaves Gulf high and dry
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Water recedes from Pensacola Bay on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, as seen from the Bayshore Condominium between Pensacola Naval Air Station and downtown.
Jan Wyatt

He stayed in touch with his neighbors who throughout the storm asked whether they should be worried about the water’s return.

“I said, ‘The water’s not coming back; it’s blowing north for two days,’” he said Tuesday. “It’s going to take an act of 20 Gods to push it back in here. You could have walked to Mexico.”

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He’d seen the water being pushed out of the bay before, during 2004’s Hurricane Charley, which took a slightly similar path up Florida’s west coast.

But he wasn’t worried about the water’s return. The large pine tree looming in his back yard and the wind were his most pressing concerns.

“It makes you feel a little alive,” Lowe said. “Like, ‘I wonder if the roof is going to blow off?’ ”

Contact Karl Etters at ketters@tallahassee.co or @KarlEtters on Twitter

Read or Share this story: http://www.tallahassee.com/story/news/2017/09/12/disappearing-waters-hurricane-irma-leaves-gulf-mexico-high-and-dry/658078001/


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