After gathering strength from the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico overnight, Hurricane Michael blasted across the Florida Panhandle Wednesday afternoon, pummeling the area with winds up to 155 miles per hour.

Earlier today, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center warned that in addition to the destructive winds and heavy rains, Michael could bring a storm surge of up to 14 feet to areas in the direct path of the storm.

Surge is similar in effect to a tsunami—a wall of water created when atmospheric pressure changes cause the ocean to rapidly rise and high winds push all that water onshore.

It’s measured as the height of the water above the normal predicted tide, and how bad it is depends mainly on three things: wind speed, shoreline shape, and timing.

But the topography of the area, and of the underwater terrain offshore, slowed down the water’s rise.

That’s still enough to knock you off your feet or send cars and other large objects hurtling headlong into whatever is in the water’s path.

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