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The Storm of the Century - March 1993

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The March 1993 “Storm of the Century†struck the gulf coast of Florida late on Friday March 12, 1993 and continued slamming Florida and states to the north on Saturday. Why was it called the Storm of the Century? To Florida residents, it was an "no-name" March hurricane creating wind gusts over 90 mph, tornadoes, and a devastatingly deadly storm surge. But it was much larger than a hurricane. To residents farther north it was called “The Blizzard of the Century†A blizzard like few had seen that dropped temperatures, dumped snow, broke trees, and knocked out power over a wide swath from Georgia to Maine.


The Superstorm produced over $2 billion in property damage across portions of 22 eastern U.S. states. Most of the property damage occurred in Florida. Advanced warnings saved lives with less than 100 direct casualties – half of whom were on vessels in seas estimated as high as 65 feet. Another 118 people perished from indirect causes with many dying during the post storm cleanup.


Five days in advance, computer models were forecasting a rapid development of intense low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico.  It was initially difficult to believe that a weak low pressure area could deepen to much lower pressures in such short a period of time. Some forecasters used the term “meteorological bombâ€!  As the week went on, the numerical forecast models continued showing the same unbelievable development. It was happening though. Upstream, the arctic, polar and subtropical jet streams were merging and a deep flow of tropical moisture over the Gulf was coming north from the Caribbean Sea. These merging factors set the timer for the impending explosion.


The winds howled as the storm moved north with the strongest recorded wind gusts at these locations:
• 110 mph Franklin County, FL
• 109 mph Dry Tortugas, FL
• 101 mph Flattop Mountain, NC
• 144 mph Mount Washington, NH


The fast moving squall line produced 59,000 cloud to ground lightning strikes as it moved onshore.   At least 11 tornadoes were reported with the storm as it crossed the state.  The F2 tornado near Chiefland in Levy County led to 3 fatalities. Other tornado fatalities were reported in Alachua and Lake Counties.


The Superstorm created an unprecedented storm surge up to 12 feet in Taylor County well north of Tampa Bay in the Florida panhandle. The surge drowned 13 people.




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