Tampa Marks 100 Years without a major Hurricane
Hurricanes are a familiar inconvenience to the Gulf Coast, but not so much for Tampa. This month marks 100 years since the last major hurricane hit the city. It was October of 1921 when a Category 4 storm swept through and killed at least eight people in the area and left infrastructure in shambles.
Before that, there was an even worse hurricane in the early 18th century. According to records, a storm swept through Tampa Bay in 1848 without warning, leaving many of the buildings in the area destroyed. Also known as the Great Gale of 1848, the wind speed has been estimated at around 130 mph. The storm was so intense that it formed a water spout on Lake Manatee.
The 1848 storm wasn't the only one. Florida has been hit many times throughout its history. But unlike most places, the city has developed a reputation for being mostly safe from hurricanes. What is it about this body of water that keeps hurricanes away?
It has to do with its geography, experts say. The bay is mostly surrounded by the West Florida continental shelf, where the depth of the water is very low. When storms head up through the Gulf of Mexico, they lose energy because they have a hard time getting over this underwater plateau. The only way a hurricane can make it into the city is if it crosses Pinellas Point and heads due east, quickly making a turn into the bay before it hits downtown. This is what happened in 1921; since then, there have been several close calls for hurricanes to make landfall near the city.
"Weatherman Optimistic for Future."
This was a headline in the dailies on October 27, 1921 after residents were reassured by meteorologists that they would not be in danger from any severe weather in the near future. It was a suggestion of good luck for years to come, and it seems the forecasters were right.
Even when Hurricane Charley came ashore southwest of the area in 2004, destroying thousands of homes and killing several people in Florida and South Carolina, downtown Tampa was spared even though damage could be seen in many places around town.
This city was once considered to be more susceptible to hurricanes, but advances in forecasting technology have made it so locals don't have to worry as much about a hurricane making landfall.
Luckily, it's not like the old days when you didn't know what was coming. In 1921, storm tracking was in its infancy, and there was no way of knowing what was coming at you until it was too late. Most weather forecasting had to be done by sending up kites with balloons attached so that the wind currents could be observed, and even then there were no guarantees of accuracy.
As Tampa marks 100 years without a major hurricane, its residents can enjoy their good luck while they have it, and be thankful for the technology that protects them from these natural disasters.