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Storm Surge Science

By: Ray Hawthorne
By: Ray Hawthorne

The power of water is now evident to folks living in Alligator Point. It's also evident that the eye of a hurricane doesn't even have to be close to cause major destruction.

Don Overchuck saw the storm surge as it literally entered his backyard.

"The water was coming up. All of a sudden it just came rolling at us. I was over in the bay in my house and I'm in a low area and I told my wife, 'listen, we gotta get outta here. I mean, right now.' "

Don and many others are left to wonder just how could this happen? The answer lies in the shape of Apalachee Bay and the direction of the hurricane's approach. Dennis approached from the southeast. The wind flow around the storm forced an increasing volume of water into Apalachee Bay. The bay shrinks at its apex, which plows the water into a smaller and smaller area.

High tides in the early morning and late afternoon exacerbated the storm surge. It turns out that the bay is one of the worst places in the world for surge.

The storm surge could have been much worse had the storm hit Alligator Point head-on. Some estimates have the storm surge at more than 30 feet if a category 5 storm struck.


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