As a meteorologist, there are things you learn in textbooks that you may never see in person. You know they happen theoretically, but the chances of seeing the most extraordinary weather phenomena are slim to none.
This is one of those things — a hurricane strong enough to change the shape of an ocean.
Twitter user @Kaydi_K shared a video Saturday afternoon in the US that quickly went viral. I knew right away that even though it seemed impossible, it was absolutely legit.
"I am in disbelief right now…" she wrote. "This is Long Island, Bahamas and the ocean water is missing!!!"
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 happened in the Bahamas on Friday and Saturday, and now it's happening on the Gulf Coast of Florida on Sunday.
On Saturday, the wind on Long Island in the Bahamas was blowing from southeast to northwest. So on the northwest side of the island, water was getting pushed away from the shoreline.
It also may have been experiencing the effects of what I call the hurricane "bulge." In the center of the storm, where there is extreme low pressure, water is drawn upward. Low pressure is basically a sucking mechanism — it sucks the air into it, and when it's really low, it can change the shape of the surface of the ocean. As the storm draws water toward the centre, it gets pulled away from the surroundings.
In any case, this isn't the sign of a tsunami. The water returned to Long Island on Saturday. On the Florida Gulf Coast, it will be back after the centre of the storm passes north of the location.
The best advice is to not venture out onto the dry seabed. You don't want to be there when the water returns.