On August 18th, a weather disturbance in the Atlantic Ocean formed into an area of tropical interest and labelled “Invest 99L” by meteorologists. For ten days it crept across the ocean and meandered in the eastern Caribbean. By Monday August 29th, Tropical Depression 9 hatched, and unconstrained by prior nearby steering winds headed into the Gulf of Mexico to become Tropical Storm Hermine on Wednesday.
West Florida went on high alert. Storms this close sometimes run up the coast like Tropical Storm Debby (2012), sometimes change direction suddenly or quickly intensify like Hurricane Charley (2004). In any case Hermine looked like it would be a rain-maker like Tropical Storm Colin earlier this year.
Anna Maria Island residents experience nature’s best and worst conditions. Summer storms can be brief and invigorating or inconvenient and terrifying. Hermine kept offshore but the effects stayed around for 3 days, tossing 9″ of rain, 45mph wind bursts, frequent lightning and massive thunder booms from waves of storm-bred feeder bands.
Combined with 2½ feet of surge on top of 2½ foot high tides, torrential and long-lasting rainfall overwhelmed the newly installed “percolation” pit drainage, causing what many people described as the worst flooding they have ever seen on the island. Schools closed Thursday, roads became impassable, and sewers backed up. Power stayed on apart from a short outage when a falling tree brought down some lines.
By Thursday night Hermine had moved north into the Florida big bend area becoming a Category 1 hurricane and made landfall near Cedar Key with 9 feet of surge.
Hermine became the latest hurricane to hit Florida since 2005 when Wilma passed over the southern part of the state. One death in northern Florida has been attributed to Hermine and many thousands of people over a large area of the west coast have suffered flood damage.