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NOAA: Tampa Bay fell 5 feet in reverse storm surge

TAMPA, Fla. — The waters of Tampa Bay fell 1.5 meters (5 feet) in a phenomenon known as a reverse storm surge as powerful Hurricane Ian passed to the south, weather officials said.

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

The exposed sandy bottom attracted onlookers and selfie-takers Wednesday, who walked in an area normally underwater. Authorities warned of the dangers, but no one was hurt when the water gradually returned after Ian passed to the northeast.

The water drained at 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.

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

Ian was once forecast to crash into Tampa Bay, but drifted south and finally made landfall Wednesday near Fort Myers.

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AP coverage of Hurricane Ian is at: https://apnews.com/hub/hurricanes?utm—source=apnewsnav&utm—medium=featured

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