Monday, July 16, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

From the archives: ‘No-name storm’ blasted Tampa Bay 25 years ago

EDITOR’S NOTE: The no-name storm came barreling out of the Gulf of Mexico, battering Florida with high winds and rising waters. But there was little time to regroup: With winds knocking down power lines, hundreds of thousands of people were left without power, just as the cold following the storm moved in. This story originally ran on March 14, 1993:

The storm had no name. But few will forget its angry face.

A wall of wind, rain and lightning slammed into Florida at midnight Friday. It unleashed crashing waves and deadly tornadoes, and brought frigid temperatures that kept punishing Tampa Bay and the state through the night Saturday.

"This could be the worst storm of the century," the National Weather Service declared as it issued warnings along the Eastern seaboard. In Florida, officials blamed the storm for the deaths of at least 15 people, including four children. Death came in many ways: Some perished in homes shredded by high winds, some suffered heart attacks, an elderly woman drowned, and a baby was killed by flying debris.

Winds nearing hurricane force combined with high tides to demolish homes and businesses, cut off power to 2-million Floridians and send hundreds fleeing for shelter.

Gov. Lawton Chiles declared a state of emergency in 21 counties, including Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, Hernando and Citrus. President Clinton declared the counties disaster areas, making them eligible for federal aid.

Chiles flew into Pinellas at 3:35 p.m. Saturday, leaned into the wind and surveyed the damage. His assessment: "It’s a mess."

Meanwhile, local officials scrambled to evacuate stranded residents, prevent power outages and open shelters.

"This is not a foot or two of water. People are being forced into the second floor of their houses," said Hernando County Commission Chairman Tony Mosca Jr., who helped evacuate residents in Hernando Beach. "It’s not a nuisance, it’s a disaster."

Among those who died in the storm was a 58-year-old Hernando County man who was helping to rescue people from their flooded homes. William G. Hahn of Aripeka died after falling in his boat and striking his head, police said.

"He was up early in the morning driving his boat, taking people out of their homes," said Hernando sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bierwiler.

PHOTO GALLERY: Remembering the no-name storm of 1993

In Pasco County, three people died from storm-related causes. One was an 87-year-old Hudson woman, whose body was found floating by sheriff’s deputies Saturday afternoon. The woman had drowned.

In Pinellas County, the Coast Guard brought in the body of Verlin Lewis, 47, of Cocoa Beach. He drowned when his fishing boat capsized off Tarpon Springs.

And in Chiefland, a woman and her 4-year-old niece died when a tornado obliterated their house.

John Donaldson, a lifelong Chiefland resident, said his family was sleeping inside his house when the storm hit.

"Everybody got down on the floor and prayed," he said.

The storm formed when arctic air from Canada skated across the nation, dumping snow and whipping up winter winds. Mixing with the warmer air over the Gulf of Mexico, the no-name monster whipped the calm gulf waters into a frenzy of roof-high waves.

Boaters began flooding the Coast Guard with calls for help. At 10:10 a.m. Saturday, a Coast Guard helicopter plucked three men from a life raft 60 miles west of Tampa after their fishing boat, the Erin Moore, sank. They were flown to shore, suffering from hypothermia.

In the Tampa Bay area, the storm washed ashore around midnight, packing winds as high as 90 miles per hour and prompting reports of tornadoes in or near Treasure Island, New Port Richey, Crystal River, Tarpon Springs and Brooksville. Tides ran 2 to 5 feet above normal, flooding beaches, roads and buildings.

Paul Nygaard, maintenance man at the Starlight Tower Condominium in St. Petersburg Beach, shivered as he yanked rubber boots onto his feet. Shaking his head, he surveyed the damage.

The waves had pounded a freshly repaired sea wall to rubble. Glass shards hung like icicles from bent window frames. The pool had become one with the gulf.

"We got hit pretty hard."

The storm hit at a strange time, after the usual rash of winter storms and long before the summer hurricane season. Officials did their best to evacuate residents in low-lying areas, but the storm’s broad sweep put some agencies under a terrible strain.

In Citrus County, sheriff’s spokeswoman Gail Tierney took to the radio to ask residents to donate their boats for rescue efforts. "Right now," she said, "the west side is truly under water."

In Pasco County, disaster officials were caught unaware, with evacuation efforts not starting until after waters had risen dangerously. Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher said, "I think it caught everybody all along the coast by surprise."

In the Clearwater area, downed telephone and power lines slowed the evacuation. When his police Jeep could no longer motor through the 5-foot water, Joe Rinaldi got out and swam to the home of some elderly residents who had climbed into their attic.

The Jeep floated away, but Rinaldi safely rescued the residents.

"They were trapped inside and they were scared," Rinaldi said later, still wet and shivering in the frosty wind. "We had to get them out."

Some people found their own escape routes.

FROM 2013: Journalist recalls personal horror from 1993 ‘no-name ntorm’

By 6 a.m. Saturday, the water had risen to Pat Sarson’s knees in the Dunedin home where she was vacationing from Massachusetts. When she and her family looked outside, they saw a boat floating by.

They grabbed it and floated to dry land.

"I can’t believe this," said Mrs. Sarson. "Yesterday, I was having a wonderful time at the beach."

Everywhere, the storm brought destruction and dislocation.

As they had during 1985’s Hurricane Elena, Pinellas County residents found themselves isolated. Officials closed the Courtney Campbell Parkway and Howard Frankland bridges, leaving motorists only one route across the bay.

At the peak of the tourist season, some attractions had to shut down or scale back their operations. In Pasco County, the Chasco Fiesta Street Parade was called off. The Citrus County Fair lost its $450,000 Sky Diver ride to the winds. And in St. Petersburg, heavy winds and flying debris closed The Pier.

Larry Green, a Canadian tourist, had driven to The Pier on Saturday with camcorder in hand, hoping to shoot memorable footage of his family at play in the sun.

"Instead, here I am on a typical March Florida day," he said, "with the kids blowing everywhere."

The lottery, however, went on.

Ed George, communications director for the Florida lottery, said power outages across the state had no measurable effect on ticket sales for the $40-million jackpot.

Coastal flood warnings stayed in effect through Saturday night, but forecasters said they expected the winds to diminish as the temperature dropped into the 30s overnight. Sunday should be partly cloudy, with a high in the low 50s.

That forecast may warm those whose homes escaped serious damage. But it will do little to comfort Denice and Rob Whipp.

The Whipps awoke Saturday morning to find their double-wide mobile home in Weeki Wachee Gardens swamped by 3 feet of water. They considered braving the elements, but decided that would pose too great of a risk to their 4-year-old son, Cory. Instead, they threw some belongings in a suitcase and fled in a boat.

"We lost everything," said Mrs. Whipp. "It’s scary, not knowing where we’re going to go or what we’re going to do."

This article was based on information from Times staff writers Bob Port, Chuck Murphy, Jenny Deam, Monica Davey, Bill Moss, Steve Persall, Jane Meinhardt, Kaylois Henry, Victoria White, Sabrina Miller, Brian Chichester, Dan DeWitt, Mike Konrad, Bill Adair, David K. Rogers, Bill Duryea and the Associated Press.

Comments
Thick humidity fuels sweltering conditions, increasing rain chances for Tampa Bay

Thick humidity fuels sweltering conditions, increasing rain chances for Tampa Bay

Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected to pick up throughout Tampa Bay on Tuesday afternoon, along with continued blistering sunshine and high humidity.An increased chance of rain, around 60 percent, will continue throughout the week. A hig...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Forecast: Dry start to work week, but rain chances will build across Tampa Bay

Forecast: Dry start to work week, but rain chances will build across Tampa Bay

The work week will start of relatively dry across Tampa Bay, but rain chances will increase throughout the week with a chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms near 50 percent on Friday.Skies will be mostly sunny on Monday, with only a 20 percen...
Published: 07/16/18
Seasonal weather remains consistent across Tampa Bay through weekend

Seasonal weather remains consistent across Tampa Bay through weekend

Tampa Bay residents can expect typical July weather patterns Friday and heading into the weekend as warm weather and sunshine leads to possible afternoon storms.The National Weather Service has most of the storms developing inland during the afternoo...
Published: 07/13/18
Chris downgraded to post-tropical cyclone, will bring rain, dangerous surf to Canada

Chris downgraded to post-tropical cyclone, will bring rain, dangerous surf to Canada

Although Chris may no longer be a hurricane, the storm could still have a significant impact on weather both on the East Coast and Canada as it races across the Atlantic and toward Canada.Hours after being downgraded to a tropical storm, Chris was de...
Published: 07/12/18
Continued high humidity with increased chance for afternoon thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

Continued high humidity with increased chance for afternoon thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

It should be a sunny Thursday around Tampa Bay with partly skies and a 20-30 percent chance of rain by the late afternoon.Most of those storms will be driven further inland by the coastal breeze sweeping in from the Gulf of Mexico, according to the N...
Published: 07/12/18
Continued heat and humidity across Tampa Bay, and more rain this weekend

Continued heat and humidity across Tampa Bay, and more rain this weekend

The second half of the week will continue Tampa Bay’s slow trek through the dog days of summer with afternoon heat indexes surpassing 100 degrees.Expect a hot and humid Wednesday as highs reach 92, with high humidity making it feel more like 100-105,...
Published: 07/11/18
Hurricane Chris quickly strengthens, generates dangerous surf on path to Canada

Hurricane Chris quickly strengthens, generates dangerous surf on path to Canada

The second hurricane of the 2018 season has quickly strengthened into a Category 2 storm that is moving away from the U.S. but making a bee-line toward Canada and, eventually, Iceland.As of Wednesday at 5 a.m., Hurricane Chris was situated about 315 ...
Published: 07/11/18
Pasco residents, officials use Irma’s lessons for upcoming hurricane plans

Pasco residents, officials use Irma’s lessons for upcoming hurricane plans

NEW PORT RICHEY — Melissa Detwiler, a resident of Seven Springs Trailer Park, bought her travel trailer in May 2017. When Hurricane Irma hit in September, she left it on the highest ground in the park and evacuated to Orlando.She and her trailer were...
Published: 07/11/18
Hurricane season 2018: Hernando County looks back on lessons learned from Irma

Hurricane season 2018: Hernando County looks back on lessons learned from Irma

Hurricane Irma last year left Hernando County with lots of flooding and downed trees, but also lessons about what to do better if another storm hits the area this year.About a month into hurricane season, the Tampa Bay Times spoke with county staff m...
Published: 07/11/18
Plenty of sunshine for Tampa Bay with chance of afternoon rain

Plenty of sunshine for Tampa Bay with chance of afternoon rain

It should be a bright, partly cloudy Tuesday with plenty of sunshine over Tampa Bay with a slight chance of scattered afternoon showers.There is a 20-30 percent chance that folks around the Tampa Bay area could see thunderstorms by the late afternoon...
Published: 07/10/18