People walk out onto what is normally four feet of water in Old Tampa Bay, Sunday, 10 September 2017, in Tampa, Florida. Hurricane Irma and an unusual low tide pushed water out more than 100 yards. Photo: Chris O'Meara / AP Photo

By Elizabeth Chuck
11 September 2017

(NBC News) – Add this to the list of what makes Hurricane Irma an unprecedented storm: Its strength literally changed the shape of the ocean.

Before making landfall in Florida on Sunday, the most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record sucked water inward away from shorelines, leaving bays along the Gulf Coast practically dry.

That depleted canals, grounded boats, and, in Florida's Sarasota Bay, stranded manatees in knee-high mud. Videos and photos went viral of water receding as far as the eye could see, from shorelines in the Bahamas up through Florida's west coast.

In Tampa Bay, it receded so much, dogs were able to run on places that would normally be under feet-deep water.

"#Tampa bay now an effective dog park as we wait for #irma. With @CityofTampa parks closed ahead of storm, this is the best we've got," tweeted a Tampa resident on Sunday.

But meteorologists warned the water would return after Irma's eye passed through.

"The wind direction will shift to onshore, causing water levels along the southwest coast of Florida to rapidly rise in a matter of minutes. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER! Life-threatening storm surge inundation of 10 to 15 feet above ground level is expected in this area," the National Weather Service in Miami warned Sunday afternoon. [more]

'Once in a Lifetime Tidal Event': Why Irma Drained Shorelines



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