Hurricane Irma sucks water away from shorelines, changing shape of ocean temporarily

LONG ISLAND, Bahamas (WCMH) — Is Hurricane Irma changing the shape of the ocean?

Videos posted to social media appear to show no water in the ocean on Long Island in the Bahamas. But where did the water go?

Washington Post meteorologist Angela Fritz sums it up thus: “Basically, Hurricane Irma is so strong and its pressure is so low, it’s sucking water from its surroundings into the core of the storm.”

It’s a rare sight, she says.

MORE: Interactive tracking map for Hurricane Irma

Storm Team 4 Meteorologist Ben Gelber also says Irma’s low pressure has contributed to this phenomenon, called “hurricane bulge.”

“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,” he said. “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.”

READ MORE: Before and after video shows water levels in Tampa Bay

Fritz says that in the center of the storm, water is drawn upward by the low pressure. The storm can even change the shape of the ocean’s surface.

Fritz says the water will return to Long Island as the storm abates.

READ MORE: More than 50 animals left tethered to trees in advance of Hurricane Irma

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