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Photos: Remembering Hurricane Elena's destruction here in 1985

Waves of Tampa Bay crash into homes on Carolina Circle in the Venetian Isles neighborhood of northeast St. Petersburg on Sept. 1, 1985.
Waves of Tampa Bay crash into homes on Carolina Circle in the Venetian Isles neighborhood of northeast St. Petersburg on Sept. 1, 1985.
Published Sep. 1, 2014

While many took note last week of Hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans nine years ago, the Tampa Bay area also has a hurricane memory that many long-time residents still shudder over.

Late on Aug. 30, 1985, while 200 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River, Elena made a sudden turn to the east. Over the next two days, the storm moved toward the Florida coast and stalled in the Gulf about 50 miles off Cedar Key.

Tampa Bay residents became glued to their TVs, watching as it drifted lazily around the gulf as wind and rain pounded the area. Evacuations were ordered, and many people spent sleepness nights in shelters.

Finally, during the afternoon of Sept. 1, Elena once again turned west. It finally went ashore at Biloxi, Miss., on Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Elena was so erratic that it caused hurricane warnings to be issued along the entire Gulf Coast, from Sarasota to Grand Island, La. About 1.5-million people - including 300,000 in the Tampa Bay area - were evacuated, some of them twice in four days.

Hurricane Elena was a category 2 hurricane from Aug. 30-Sept. 1; category 3 from Sept. 1-landfall in Mississippi . He hurricane caused four deaths and $125 million in damage.

This collection of photos from that year reminds us that Tampa Bay has been fortunate for a very long time. Because if this was what a meandering Category 2 hurricane far north of us could do, imagine a direct hit.