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Why Hurricanes Like Florida 📰
the geography of the Gulf & Fort Meyers didn't help unfortunately (📰Map News)
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Why Hurricanes Like Florida
Hurricanes like Ian don’t just barrel through land indiscriminately. Don’t get me wrong – they do barrel through like a mack truck, but the geography of the land they hit – the map they encounter – can make or break a lot of destruction. And tragically for Florida, Hurricane Ian hit a very hurricane-friendly map.
There’s a couple of big factors in the geography of this part of Florida that really wasn’t helpful.
First, the state’s gulf coast sits on a very long, very shallow plateau that extends deep into the Gulf of Mexico. It’s like a slightly tilted shelf. Big waves of storm surge can ride that shelf like a conveyer belt straight to the coast. (as opposed to sharper shores like in California which would break up some of that intensity).
Second, the pretty perfect right angle of the Fort Myers coast right where the hurricane hit acted like a scoop, pushing more and more water onto the shores (the island at the center of this angle is Sanibel, you’ve probably seen images of its wiped out bridge and the devastating destruction there).
Places on the other side of the scoop had water sucked out – Tampa Bay actually dropped by 5 feet – in what’s called a reverse storm surge. Interestingly, the right side of any hurricane’s path is almost always more destructive than the left side (so when in doubt, go left?)….
Lastly, the land in Florida is flat and low, which is not good in a flood. But if a bad map is kindling for a hurricane’s wrath, a good map could potentially save the day. That was proven really well by the town of Babcock Ranch, a community designed intentionally to mitigate storms like Ian. Babcock Ranch is only about 30 min outside of Fort Myers and sat right on the hurricane’s path, but amazingly it had very little damage and never lost power. That’s because it was purposefully built inland, on higher ground, with retaining ponds to prevent floods, roads designed to move water, and all utilities below ground. It’s proof the map can be a friend too, just don’t call it flat and you’ll get along fine.
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