Storm Surge Predictions: Direct Hit Apalachee Bay

Most experts agree that some day a major hurricane will directly hit Apalachee Bay, and the storm surge predictions are chilling.

It won't take more than a tropical storm to place the immediate Big Bend coast under water. Even a direct hit from a minimal hurricane is disastrous.

Butch Baker, Franklin County Emergency Manager, says, "If we have a category two hurricane coming at our coast, we have to evacuate the entire county. Everybody."

It may look like a typical day on the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachee Bay, but if a major hurricane were to make a landfall in this area, a storm surge of 20 feet or greater would spread as far as the eye can see.

As the intensity of a storm increases, the higher and farther inland the water goes. These projections are based on a computer model called "SLOSH," which stands for Sea, Land, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes.

A category five storm would send much of Franklin, Wakulla, and the southwestern third of Taylor County under water. Surge heights would exceed a whopping 35 feet in places, and some water would be bearing down on Woodville.

That is a worst-case scenario based on a storm moving greater than 20 miles per hour.

Justin Balb, Florida's assistant state meteorologist, says, "Faster moving storms can be more of a problem with higher surge. The forward motion adds to the wind speed and you can get a greater surge."

While such a freakish storm has never occurred in recorded history, WCTV Chief Meteorologist Mike McCall agrees that the Apalachee Bay area will some day take a devastating blow, and has some advice for when that day comes.

"Category three hurricane headed toward Franklin and Wakulla Counties? Get out, time to leave. Don't ask questions, just leave. Listen to what we say and listen to emergency management,” he says.