A supermoon and a hurricane are making Florida and Georgia very uncomfortable,with high tides and 125 mph winds.
Hurricane Idalia met Florida’s west coast on Wednesday, a category 3 landfall near Keaton Beach, a fortunately sparsely populated area. At the same time, the moon was in its closest pass to Earth this year, making for higher tides to combine with storm surge.
“I would say the timing is pretty bad for this one,” said Brian Haines, the meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service office in Charleston, South Carolina.
It’s expected to make tidal flooding worse not only in Florida, but in states such as Georgia and South Carolina, where Haines’ office was warning residents that parts of Charleston could be under water by Wednesday night. Charleston saw not only the promised flooding, but also a tornado that tore down in a suburb. Amplified by the supermoon, wave crested over the city’s seawall that protects downtown. High tide Wednesday afternoon was over three feet higher than normal, the fifth-highest tide recorded in Georgia since 1899.
When the moon is full, the sun and the moon are pulling in the same direction, which has the effect of increasing tides above normal ranges, said Kerry Emanuel, professor emeritus of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
In Florida, that surging tide destroyed businesses, boats, docks, and homes in Steinhatchee, about 20 miles from the landfall. Over 500 people were evacuated, and clearing the area of danger is going to take some time.
At Cat 3 with winds of up to 125 mph, Idalia is the strongest hurricane to make landfall so far north in Florida in 125 years. It brought storm surges of over 8 feet, in addition to the supermoon’s high tides, setting high-water records deep inland in the Big Bend area. Originally predicted to peter out as a tropical storm, it was accelerated and launched north by high water temperatures, nearly 88 degrees in the Gulf of Mexico.