Monday, August 20, 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
Potent thunderstorms are forecast to return across Tampa Bay

Potent thunderstorms are forecast to return across Tampa Bay

A powerful line of storms created a ferocious lightning show on Sunday afternoon while dumping lots of rain and producing wall-rattling thunder.Tampa Bay can expect to see similar thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday night as the coastal breeze collides ...
Published: 08/20/18
Forecast: Heat index of 103 in Tampa Bay Sunday

Forecast: Heat index of 103 in Tampa Bay Sunday

ST. PETERSBURG ó Itís another hot one.Temperatures across Tampa Bay are expected to reach the low- or -mid-90s Sunday, according to the National Weather Service, with heat indices as high as 103.Scattered thunderstorms will dot the region in the afte...
Published: 08/19/18
Get ready for a hot and sunny weekend across Tampa

Get ready for a hot and sunny weekend across Tampa

The ridge of high pressure bringing drier air across Florida and the Gulf of Mexico will hold through the weekend, allowing for hot and dry conditions with low chances of rain, according to the National Weather Service.A dry Friday morning will see t...
Published: 08/17/18
Stretch of heat and sunshine to continue in Tampa Bay through weekend

Stretch of heat and sunshine to continue in Tampa Bay through weekend

A ridge of high pressure that has settled in the western Atlantic will provide Tampa Bay with drier, more stable weather for the next few days, according to the National Weather Service.Clear skies and lots of sunshine will characterize the morning w...
Published: 08/16/18
Subtropical Storm Ernesto forms in north Atlantic

Subtropical Storm Ernesto forms in north Atlantic

The fifth named storm of the 2018 hurricane season has formed far off in the north Atlantic and poses no threat to land.As of Wednesday at 11 a.m., Subtropical Storm Ernesto had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph with higher gusts and was about 695 mi...
Published: 08/15/18
Clear skies to persist through weekend across Tampa Bay

Clear skies to persist through weekend across Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay should see plenty of sunshine for the rest of the week and into the weekend as a drier air mass will help to keep the skies mostly clear. But it hasnít completely banished any chance of rain as a southeastern air flow could carry isolated s...
Published: 08/15/18
More afternoon storms across Tampa Bay, but dry air is on its way

More afternoon storms across Tampa Bay, but dry air is on its way

Ongoing pockets of scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms are drifting along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico due to a southwestern air flow. Those storms will begin to expand and shift inland by the afternoon and evening, pushing the Tampa Bay ...
Published: 08/14/18
A wet first day back to school for many Tampa Bay students

A wet first day back to school for many Tampa Bay students

Children across the Tampa Bay area head to their first day of classes Monday in wet, muggy conditions, but things should improve by the second half of the week as more dry air shifts into the Tampa Bay area. Parents will want to bring an umbrella ...
Published: 08/13/18
Forecast: Heat, scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Heat, scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG ó Tampa Bay can expect scattered thunderstorms and heat Sunday.Temperatures will reach about 88 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, but the heat index will climb as high as 97.Scattered showers and thunderstorms will t...
Published: 08/12/18
Tampa forecast: Thunderstorms and heavy rains possible

Tampa forecast: Thunderstorms and heavy rains possible

Thunderstorms with possible heavy rainfall will again move through the Tampa Bay area Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.EXTENDED FORECAST: The 10-day outlook for the Tampa Bay areaAs of Saturday morning, most storms were concentrate...
Published: 08/11/18