NAPLES, Fla. (AP/WFTX) — Scientists say Florida has been it hit by a rare meteotsunami that caused water levels to jump and sent beachgoers running from oncoming waves earlier this month.
The Naples News reports air pressure disturbances and quick-moving storms caused the meteotsunami on Dec. 20. The phenomenon shouldn't be confused with tsunamis, which are caused by earthquakes and other seismic activity.
National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Fisher says temperatures dropped roughly 10 degrees in southwest Florida as barometric pressure momentarily rose by 1.6 millibars.
The wave heights, which were projected to be around 1.7 feet, reached 5 feet before decreasing. Wind gusts spiked at 54 mph (87 kph) as a storm brought heavy rains and tornado warnings to the Naples area.
Scripps station WFTX in Fort Myers reported that Castaways Beach and Bay Cottages, located on the north end of Sanibel, was impacting by the waves.
The surging wave sent people scrambling for cover as it washed ashore past the cottages and across the road. The water flooded the inside of several beach cottages, and about twelve guests had to be re-located to vacant cottages farther from the beach, according to the resort manager.
"We've moved them over to our marina side," said Castaways manager Rick Boyd. "We've thankfully got a few that are empty this weekend."
"We just weren't expecting anything like that. It was just very bizarre," Boyd added.
The meteotsunami didn't cause significant flooding.