While Hurricane Irma was on a destructive path towards the south-east corner of the United States, people living in the Bahamas saw a curious phenomenon: on Saturday, September 9, the sea seemed to be sucked away from the shoreline, retreating hundreds of metres. The same thing happened the next day in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Over the weekend, Hurricane Irma had a surprising side-effect: pulling back the sea. People posted photos and videos online of the sudden expanse of shore that had appeared.

Angela Fritz, meteorology specialist and deputy weather editor for The Washington Post, published an article on Sunday, September 10 explaining the phenomenon. Fritz wrote that the sea being pulled back is the consequence of two things caused by the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

In Tampa Bay, wind pushed the water west, away from the coast. At the same time, the low pressure at the centre of the hurricane acts as a sort of black hole that sucks air and water towards it. So in the eye of the storm, the water level of the sea rises, and this causes the water to be sucked away from the coasts.

Only hours after Hurricane Irma had passed through the area, the sea was back to normal.

Angela Fritz stressed in her article that the water disappearing from the coastline was not an indication of an approaching tsunami. However, it is dangerous to walk on the exposed shore, as the water can rise again suddenly and quickly.