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NEW DATA: Peak storm surge of 7-12 feet recorded in Taylor Co. after Hurricane Idalia

Storm surge is measured above normally dry ground.
Image 9-18-23 at 2.42 PM.jpeg
Posted at 2:57 PM, Sep 18, 2023

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE STATEMENT:

Hurricane Idalia made landfall at 745 am ET on Wednesday, August

30th near Keaton Beach, Florida with maximum sustained winds of

125 mph. The hurricane produced a devastating surge along coastal

communities in Taylor and Dixie Counties within our county warning

area. The peak surge values observed were from Dekle Beach in

Taylor County southeastward to Horseshoe Beach in Dixie County.

Surge heights in this area along the immediate coast were within

the range of 7 to 12 feet above normally dry ground. Lower values

of up to 6 feet above normally dry ground were noted south of

Horseshoe Beach near the community of Suwannee.

 

 

Storm surge is measured above normally dry ground. Numerous homes

within the surge zone suffered significant damage or had water and

debris marks on them where survey field crews could make a

determination of both the still water and wave water level. It is

important to stress that field crews work to differentiate

between the still water level, that is the water level rise above

normally dry ground, which is storm surge, and wave action. Wave

action, on top of the storm surge, is also measured. In this

event, wave action was generally found to average around 3 feet on

top of the peak storm surge.

 

 

It should also be noted the storm made landfall around the time of

low tide. Had the storm made landfall 6 hours later, around the

time of high tide, peak water level values could have been between

3-4 feet higher.

 

 

Aside from field observations on numerous structures within the

surge zone, live video from Steinhatchee helped confirm water

levels around the time of the peak surge. Additionally, a Suwannee

River Water Management gauge located just over 2.5 miles upstream

from the mouth of the Steinhatchee River near the Captain Chad

Reed Memorial Bridge, reported a river height of 8.03 ft mean

higher high water, a datum used to approximate water rise above

normally dry ground along the immediate coast. This value was 0.97

ft above the value recorded during Hurricane Hermine in 2016. The

gauge also recorded just over a 6 foot rise in water level in 1

hour. Note that this gauge has a short period of record and does

not extend back to the 1993 “storm of the century.”

 

 

In the process of the high water mark surveys, interviews were

conducted with several residents that lived in the area during the

“Storm of the Century,” a non-tropical system that affected this

portion of the Florida coastline on March 13, 1993. All of these

residents interviewed from Keaton Beach to Horseshoe Beach

indicated water levels that rivaled or exceeded those experienced

in the 1993 “Storm of the Century.” Moreover, Dixie County

Emergency Management noted that the inland extent of the storm

surge from Hurricane Idalia moved much further inland from

Horseshoe Beach than observed in “The Storm of the Century.” We

greatly appreciate these interviews and are continuing to compare

these statements with the high water marks collected from

Hurricane Idalia with the storm surveys completed following the

1993 “Storm of the Century”. It is still too early to definitively

state whether the surge from Hurricane Idalia exceeded the 1993

“Storm of the Century”. That determination will be made at a later

date.

 

 

The heights reported in this statement are considered preliminary

with final values available in the official Tropical Cyclone

Report for Idalia that will be issued by the National Hurricane

Center next year. Additional analysis of the storm surge will

continue in the mean time as further data is collected and

received. The National Weather Service in Tallahassee would like

to thank The National Hurricane Center’s Storm Surge Unit, The

Florida Division of Emergency Management, Florida Fish and

Wildlife Commission, Suwannee River Water Management District,

Taylor County Emergency Management and Dixie County Emergency

Management for their assistance in conducting these high water

mark surveys of the storm surge zone along with our own survey

crews from the National Weather Service in Tallahassee. In

addition to these field surveys, interviews and additional data

provided by residents surveying their homes immediately after the

water receded helped contribute to the finding of the peak surge

values.

 

 

 

The National Weather Service in Tallahassee would also like to

extend our thoughts and sympathies to residents impacted by this

record setting hurricane.