Hurricane Irma left more than 5 million Florida homes without power on Tuesday and killed at least six people in the state.
But residents could have fared even worse if the storm, downgraded to a Category 2 by Sunday, hadn’t moved slightly to the left of earlier forecasts and avoided a direct hit on Miami.
Scientists said the forecasts turned out to be accurate because Irma stayed within the so-called “cone of uncertainty” for the storm’s path. But by hugging the state’s west coast, instead of moving straight up the middle, the storm’s counterclockwise spin sent more water away from shore than expected in many places.
“Instead of doing what we expect a storm like that to do, which is flood areas, it actually dried areas. That’s a pretty rare occurrence,” said Rick Luettich, director of the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of North Carolina.
Still, Florida’s northeast saw record flooding, leaving 220,000 people in shelters as of Monday, the Associated Press reported.