Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

Carlton: The cross atop the church that moved, and other strange tales from Hurricane Irma

Down in Miami, the famous tan-don't-burn Coppertone Girl on the side of a building lost her head — part of it, at least, the top of her blond hair lopped off in the fierce winds of Hurricane Irma. ("At least her tan line and doggie weathered the storm," the Miami Herald noted optimistically.)

In Key West, Irma hit so hard that she blasted the paint right off the Southernmost marker where surely a billion tourists have posed for pictures.

Amid all the downed trees and acres of branches, the smashed roofs, leveled fences and powerless houses — in the destruction and even death from a hurricane that spared us its worst — Irma left behind some intriguing sights.

Spiritual ones, even, if you are inclined to be swayed by the story of the church cross in Tampa that turned in the night. More on that in a minute.

Much of the damage around here is, thankfully, down to leafy piles at the curb and workers busy building new fences. But there is still plenty to show Irma's ferocity and her utter contrariness, hitting here and not there, sparing an oak to take down a pine.

Highway billboards are reduced to framed tatters that flutter in the wind, the faces of smug lawyers and pictures of cheap burgers obliterated. In Tampa, without rhyme or reason, Irma plucked the steeple clean off a small church. In Pinellas Park, a colleague took a photograph of a downed beehive shaped distinctly like a broken heart. Even if you're not prone to, say, finding the image of a religious figure when you look at a potato chip, it was pretty striking.

And then there is what happened at St. John's Episcopal Church that very scary Sunday night.

Established more than a century ago as St. John's By The Sea, it is a graceful and prominent church not far off Bayshore Boulevard in Hyde Park, one of the city's prettiest neighborhoods. Atop its bell tower, its highest point, they put up a cross that is illuminated at night and faces due west toward St. Petersburg.

The morning after Irma's blessed exit, when the rain had stopped and the curfew was lifted, people from the church did what pretty much everyone was doing: They walked around checking for damage. Thankfully, there was little to worry about.

Then someone saw it up above.

The cross had turned.

Now it faced due south instead of west, over the houses and trees and directly toward the bay waters you can see from the church sidewalk.

"It still lights up," Father Chip Connelly reports when I call about the cross and its new direction.

"How it happened, I don't know," he said, "and why it happened, I don't know."

I ask about something like divine intervention, and he says he doesn't know about that. Maybe it's a reminder about trusting God in the midst of great difficulties, he says.

And yes, other theories have circulated about why the cross turned toward the water — beyond the whimsical brutality of a hurricane. Maybe it's to hold the water back, people have said. Maybe it's a greater power protecting us.

"It's a nice thought," says Father Connelly. "And who knows, it could be true." A nice thought doesn't seem like the worst thing at the moment.

For now, he says, they will leave the cross as it is, facing the water. And then see what the world brings next.

Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

 
Comments
Forecast: Tampa Bay’s week of record-breaking highs coming to an end

Forecast: Tampa Bay’s week of record-breaking highs coming to an end

As the week closes out, Tampa Bay can expect continued abnormally high temperatures, a lot of sunshine and just a slight chance of scattered showers.But at least the heat isn’t expected to be record-breaking.For the past four days, the bay area set r...
Published: 02/23/18
‘The sound of death:’ Deadly tornadoes ravage Central Florida in dark (from 1998)

‘The sound of death:’ Deadly tornadoes ravage Central Florida in dark (from 1998)

EDITOR’S NOTE: While many of us were asleep, a string of deadly tornadoes tore through east-central Florida on Feb. 22-23, 1998, destroying homes and resulting in 42 deaths and more than 260 injuries. On the 20th anniversary of that tragedy, here is ...
Published: 02/23/18
Forecast: Warm weather persists in Tampa Bay, but slightly cooler weekend ahead

Forecast: Warm weather persists in Tampa Bay, but slightly cooler weekend ahead

Tampa Bay has broken record high temperatures since Monday, and Thursday should be no different.Happy Thursday! We are rolling through the week and once again temperatures will be near record highs this afternoon. If we break the record high of 85° t...
Published: 02/22/18
Forecast: No end in sight to Tampa Bay’s record-setting heat

Forecast: No end in sight to Tampa Bay’s record-setting heat

A high-pressure system covering central Florida is maintaining record-setting warm temperatures and dry weather across the Tampa Bay, and there is no end in sight.Record highs in the upper 80s were set Tuesday in Sarasota, Tampa Bay and Clearwater. I...
Published: 02/21/18
Forecast: After hottest day of the year, record heat to continue across Tampa Bay

Forecast: After hottest day of the year, record heat to continue across Tampa Bay

Published: 02/20/18
Forecast: Temperatures hover near record highs across Tampa Bay, with little rain

Forecast: Temperatures hover near record highs across Tampa Bay, with little rain

Warm weather will continue this week across Tampa Bay, with temperatures hanging around the low to mid 80s and a low chance of rain for the first half.Early morning fog is sparse across central Florida with some low visibility inland in places such a...
Published: 02/19/18
Forecast: Record-tying high of 84 today in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Record-tying high of 84 today in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — What winter? 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels-like temperatures around the Tampa Bay areaIt may still be mid February, but this week will already see plenty of sun...
Published: 02/18/18
Forecast: Weekend promises plenty of warmth and sunshine for Tampa Bay

Forecast: Weekend promises plenty of warmth and sunshine for Tampa Bay

A high-pressure system resting atop central Florida will make it difficult for rain to form, spelling a partly cloudy, mostly sunny weekend for the Tampa Bay.Friday morning commuters may see patches of fog, but these will clear up around 9 a.m. and y...
Published: 02/16/18
After fog, mostly sunny skies and warm conditions for Tampa Bay

After fog, mostly sunny skies and warm conditions for Tampa Bay

A thick blanket of fog welcomed early morning commuters in Polk, Hernando and Citrus counties on Thursday morning, prompting a dense fog warning.The fog cover should disperse by around 9:30 a.m., leading to partly cloudy, mostly sunny skies. "It’ll b...
Published: 02/15/18
Forecast: Valentine’s Day a mix of warm sunshine and clouds

Forecast: Valentine’s Day a mix of warm sunshine and clouds

It is going to be one of the hottest Valentine’s Days on record, with highs forecast to reach 82.This follows what is the hottest start to February on record, and Monday’s high of 86 also broke record highs for that day, 10Weather WTSP meteorologist...
Published: 02/14/18