NOAA: Tampa Bay dropped 5 feet in storm reverse surge

Tampa Bay
Curious sightseers walk in the receding waters of Tampa Bay due to the low tide and tremendous winds from Hurricane Ian in Tampa, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. (Willie J. Allen Jr./Orlando Sentinel via AP)

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The waters of Tampa Bay dropped 5 feet in a phenomenon known as reverse storm surge as powerful Hurricane Ian passed to the south, weather officials say.

Then, it came back, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The exposed sandy bottom drew curious onlookers and selfie-takers Wednesday who walked out in an area normally under water. Officials warned of dangers but no one was injured when the water gradually returned after Ian passed to the northeast.

The water drained out by 12 a.m. Thursday and mostly returned about 12 hours later, NOAA said. Tampa Bay has a normal average depth of about 12 feet (4 meters) but is much shallower closer to Tampa itself.

The phenomenon of the bay emptying also happened in 2017, when experts said Hurricane Irma caused a negative surge. Because a tropical storm’s winds blow counterclockwise, the winds at the northern edge of Hurricane Ian were blowing from east to west with so much force that they pushed the water from the bay into the Gulf of Mexico.

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