A tsunami struck the city of Naples, Florida, Sunday morning, although this particular kind of tsunami, called a “meteotsunami,” did not bring the widespread damage and devastation normally associated with tsunamis, WZVN (Naples) is reporting.
Naples, a city of about 20,000 people on the Gulf Coast, was heavily battered by a strong storm system that moved through southwest Florida Saturday night and Sunday morning, spawning at least two confirmed tornadoes, according to the Weather Channel.
At the Naples Zoo and Caribbean Gardens, according to WBBH (Fort Meyers), high winds damaged structures at the park. Fortunately, the animals were all safe and accounted for, with no injuries.
Besides causing widespread property damage and spawning a tornado, Sunday’s storms also spawned an unusual weather event in Naples: a “meteotsunami.”
Unlike regular tsunamis, which are spawned by geological events (such as earthquakes) or impact events (such as a landslide or a meteor impact), meteotsunamis are generated by weather events — usually hurricanes, but also thunderstorms, such as the Naples meteotsunami.
Meteotsunamis occur when air pressure disturbances brought on by fast-moving weather systems over the ocean churn up waves. These waves then travel at the same speed as the storm system itself — as high as 80 miles per hour. Theoretically, a meteotsunami’s “deep water speed” can reach up to 455 miles per hour.
Meteotsunamis can be just as devastating as regular tusnamis, however. In 2008, a meteotsunami churned up by Hurricane Ike completely destroyed Galveston’s, Texas, Bolivar Peninsula.
In Naples, Sunday’s meteotsunami came right at high tide, bringing widespread coastal flooding to the city. Water level readings show that the meteotsunami brought the water level to seven feet — six feet higher than a normal high tide.
Though Naples has been battered hard by Sunday’s storm, the tsunami does not appear to have brought the complete and utter devastation that can sometimes be associated with such events.
Elsewhere in southwest Florida, Sunday’s storm system knocked out power to over 100,000 homes. In nearby Duette, two people — a husband and wife — were killed when their mobile home was destroyed. Steven Wilson and Kate Wilson were pronounced dead at the scene; a third adult, as well as four children, living at the mobile home were all taken to area hospitals to be treated for what are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.
The two adults are the first tornado-related fatalities in Florida since 2012, when Tropical Storm Debby spawned tornadoes that killed at least seven people.
In Sarasota, the storm damaged 45 homes and caused an estimated $3 million in property damage. In Siesta Key, winds up to 70 miles per hour damaged a condominium development — fire crews were seen going door to door on Sunday morning, making sure residents were safe and accounted for.
According to the National Weather Service, meteotsunamies, such as the one that strung Naples, are rare but not unheard-of in Florida, and have been known to strike the Sunshine State a few times per year.
[Image via Shutterstock/Andrey Yurlov]