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Tampa Bay water recedes ahead of Hurricane Ian. It’ll likely rush back.

The phenomenon also happened in 2017, when Hurricane Irma pulled waters from Tampa Bay.
A view of the pier as the Tampa Bay is draining in a reverse storm surge with Hurricane Ian expected to make landfall this afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 in St. Petersburg.
A view of the pier as the Tampa Bay is draining in a reverse storm surge with Hurricane Ian expected to make landfall this afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022 in St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Sep. 28|Updated Sep. 29

A rare phenomenon caused by Hurricane Ian sucked water away from the shore of Tampa Bay on Wednesday morning, another symptom of the impending storm.

Related: THURSDAY LIVE UPDATES: Tampa Bay wakes up after Hurricane Ian's landfall

Around 8 a.m., the tide was beginning to recede from Tampa Bay. The phenomenon is called a “reverse storm surge,” and it’s when storm winds push water out of the bay, according to Nicole Carlisle, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tampa Bay.

Times reporter Christopher Spata tweeted that charter captain Jordan Hallsted spotted water receding around 8:30 a.m. near North Shore Park and Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Petersburg.

Spectrum Bay News 9 meteorologist Mike Clay tweeted around 8:30 a.m. that water in Madeira Beach was being pushed away from shore, with two hours still to go before low tide.

Water near Tampa’s McKay Bay was 3 feet below expected levels during low tide as of 10:30 a.m., according to preliminary data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Waters from the gulf beaches also pulled back Wednesday morning but are starting to rise again, data tracking from Clearwater Beach shows.

Carlisle said the negative tide will likely continue over the next couple of hours. Later on Wednesday, the Tampa Bay area could see the water rushing back, as forecasters are still predicting 4 to 6 feet of storm surge.

A graph shows water levels in the eastern part of Tampa Bay near the entrance of Mckay Bay, preliminary data from NOAA shows. Water receded three feet below expected levels during low tide on Wednesday morning ahead of Hurricane Ian.
A graph shows water levels in the eastern part of Tampa Bay near the entrance of Mckay Bay, preliminary data from NOAA shows. Water receded three feet below expected levels during low tide on Wednesday morning ahead of Hurricane Ian. [ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ]

The same rare phenomenon happened in 2017, when experts said the negative surge caused by Hurricane Irma was one of the biggest ever.

The force of the storm and winds blowing counterclockwise pulled the water near Bayshore Boulevard during an extremely low tide, emptying the bay as onlookers walked out curiously onto the shores (which officials warn is extremely dangerous to do).

Hurricane Ian is causing water to recede from Tampa Bay as it approaches Florida's west coast. Bayshore Boulevard at 10:25 a.m. Wednesday show water has been sucked out of the bay.
Hurricane Ian is causing water to recede from Tampa Bay as it approaches Florida's west coast. Bayshore Boulevard at 10:25 a.m. Wednesday show water has been sucked out of the bay. [ LUIS SANTANA | The Tampa Bay Times ]

Irma’s eye weakened significantly before easterly winds hit Tampa Bay that would have caused a “blowout” — when pressure builds up and water rushes back in — having only a 2-foot surge.

Carlisle reminded residents of Tampa Bay to not walk out into the bay, as waters will come back.

The Florida Division of Emergency Management echoed the warning around 9:30 a.m. The water will return through a storm surge, the department said, and it will be life-threatening.

• • •

2022 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HOW TO TALK TO KIDS ABOUT THE HURRICANE: A school mental health expert says to let them know what’s happening, keep a routine and stay calm.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN A SHELTER: What to bring — and not bring — plus information on pets, keeping it civil and more.

SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME: Storms and property damage go hand in hand. Here’s how to prepare.

IT'S STORM SEASON: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.

RISING THREAT: Tampa Bay will flood. Here's how to get ready.

DOUBLE-CHECK: Checklists for building all kinds of hurricane kits

PHONE IT IN: Use your smartphone to protect your data, documents and photos.

SELF-CARE: Protect your mental health during a hurricane.

• • •

Rising Threat: A special report on flood risk and climate change

PART 1: The Tampa Bay Times partnered with the National Hurricane Center for a revealing look at future storms.

PART 2: Even weak hurricanes can cause huge storm surges. Experts say people don't understand the risk.

PART 3: Tampa Bay has huge flood risk. What should we do about it?

INTERACTIVE MAP: Search your Tampa Bay neighborhood to see the hurricane flood risk.

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