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Weather Talk: Irma's large size led to damaging storm surges

Here in the landlocked heartland, we think of the ocean as being flat with waves, but this is frequently not the case. The storm surge that crept up the southeast coast from Florida to South Carolina is an example of a very damaging bulge in the level of the sea.

Although the National Hurricane Center had issued numerous statements about unpredictable storm surges, many areas were unprepared for the height of the water. Harbors and river mouths, such as the ones in Miami and Jacksonville, Florida, and Charleston, South Carolina, experienced particularly bad flooding.

Hurricane Irma was a Category 5 hurricane of unusually large dimension. It had tremendous girth. The extraordinary storm surge was at its greatest and most destructive on the northeast side of the storm where easterly winds placed a great volume of water on the leading edge of the northward-moving storm. Even as the hurricane weakened, the high water remained.

John Wheeler

John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms.  John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold.  When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading.  John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.

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