1848 Tampa Bay hurricane

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Tampa Bay hurricane of 1848
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Formed September 23, 1848 (1848-09-23)
Dissipated September 28, 1848 (1848-09-29)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained: 135 mph (215 km/h)
Lowest pressure 948 mbar (hPa); 27.99 inHg
Fatalities 0
Damage $20,000 (1848 USD)
Areas affected Florida
Part of the 1848 Atlantic hurricane season

The Tampa Bay hurricane of 1848, also known as the Great Gale of 1848, was a tropical cyclone that struck Florida in September 1848. It affected the Tampa Bay Area September 23–25, 1848. It crossed the Florida Peninsula to cause damage on the east coast on or about September 26. It reshaped parts of the coast and destroyed much of what few human works and habitation were then in the Tampa Bay Area. Although its recorded wind speed was that of a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, its barometric pressure and storm surge were consistent with at least a Category 4 hurricane.[1][2][3] It was described by one survivor as, “the granddaddy of all hurricanes.” (Grismer, 35)

Meteorological history[edit]

The storm appears to have formed in the central Gulf of Mexico before moving northeast to make landfall near Clearwater, Florida. It then crossed the Florida peninsula and exited near Cape Canaveral.[3] After moving into the extreme western Atlantic, the cyclone continued to the northeast just offshore of the East Coast of the United States to the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.[4]

Storm effects[edit]

Gulf of Mexico[edit]

A brig was dismasted north of Cedar Key, within 80 miles (128.75 km) of St. Marks, Florida. (Ludlum) Various bay and keys were changed significantly. This hurricane rendered existing maps of the Tampa Bay area useless to mariners.


Allen's Creek looking east from U.S. 19 towards Tampa Bay.

The wind speed was measured at 72 miles per hour (116 km/h) at its highest and the barometer read 28.18 inches of mercury (954.28 mb) at its lowest (at Fort Brooke), though the winds were still blowing at the time that reading was made. (Ludlum) The storm produced the highest tide ever experienced in Tampa Bay. The water rose and fell about 15 feet (4.57 m) in 6 to 8 hours. Pinellas County was inundated “at the waist” and “the bays met.” General R. D. A. Wade, commanding at Fort Brooke, reported the destruction of the wharves, public buildings, and storehouses. B. P. Curry, the fort’s assistant surgeon, reported the hospital destroyed. Only five houses were left standing in Tampa, and they were all damaged. The water rose twelve feet higher than had been noted in the past. (Pizo 19)

Egmont Key lighthouse.

At Englewood, Florida, Stump Pass was cut. Casey’s Pass was opened at Venice, Florida. New Pass was opened between Sarasota Bay and the Gulf, splitting Palm Island into Longboat and Lido Keys.[5] Allen’s Creek was widened from less than 200 ft (60.96 m) to about half a mile at its mouth. The fish rancho of Antonio Máximo Hernández, reputedly lower Pinellas’ first white settler, was destroyed. Passage Key, between Egmont Key and Anna Maria, was obliterated but reformed later.

The storm created what would become known as “Soldier’s Hole” at Mullet Key, so called because soldiers at Fort De Soto used it as a swimming hole. John’s Pass was opened but has since shifted north. After the storm destroyed the lighthouse on Egmont Key,[6] the keeper (Marvel Edwards) rode out the storm in a rowboat tied to a palmetto tree. The end of the rope was later found 9 ft (2.74 m) off the ground, which had an elevation of about 6 ft (1.83 m). The Tocobaga mound on Odette Phillippe’s property in what is now Safety Harbor, Florida was damaged. All the trees along what is now Indian Rocks Road in Largo were knocked down. (Largo, 148) The cost of replacing the Egmont Key lighthouse and a strong box lost from W. G. Ferris totaled US$19,500 (1848 dollars). (Barnes)

View from John‘s Pass bridge looking east toward Boca Ciega Bay

Damage on the east coast may have been less severe, though it was described in the Savannah Republican as, “blowing ‘great guns’ - the hardest blow felt [on the St. Johns River] for several years." It blew down houses in Jacksonville, Florida, and caused flooding in Saint Augustine, Florida, as well as interference with shipping on the river.[7]

See also[edit]


World Wide Web[edit]

  1. ^ Edward N. Rappaport, Jose Fernandez-Partagas, and Jack Beven (1997). "The Deadliest Atlantic Tropical Cyclones, 1492-1996: Cyclones that may have caused 25+ deaths". NOAA. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  2. ^ Al Sandrik and Chris Landsea (2003). "Chronological Listing of Tropical Cyclones affecting North Florida and Coastal Georgia 1565-1899". Hurricane Research Division. Retrieved 2007-01-02. 
  3. ^ a b Brian H. Bossak. Early 19th Century U. S. Hurricanes: A GIS Tool and Climate Analysis. Retrieved on 2006-08-01.
  4. ^ Michael Chenoweth. A Reassessment of Historical Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity: 1700-1855. Retrieved on 2007-02-18.
  5. ^ Sarasota County History Center. Historic Sarasota County: 1841-1910. Retrieved on 2007-02-18.
  6. ^ Tim Ohr. EGMONT KEY, A GREAT FIND. Retrieved on 2007-02-18.
  7. ^ Al Sandrik and Christopher Landsea. Chronological Listing of Tropical Cyclones affecting North Florida and Coastal Georgia 1565-1899. Retrieved on 2006-08-01.

Printed media[edit]

  1. Barnes, Jay. Florida's Hurricane History. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, 1998. Pages 61–62.
  2. Fuller, Walter P. St. Petersburg and its People. Great Outdoors Publishing. St. Petersburg, 1972. Pages 48 – 50.
  3. Google Earth. July 27, 2006.
  4. Grismer, Karl, The Story of Sarasota. The Florida Grower Press. Tampa, 1946.
  5. Largo Bicentennial Book Committee. (LBBC1979)Largo, then till . . . . Largo Area Historical Society. 1979.
  6. Ludlum, David McWilliams. Early American hurricanes, 1492-1870. American Meteorological Society. Boston, 1963. ISBN 0933876165
  7. Pizzo, Anthony P. Tampa town, 1824-1886; The cracker village with a Latin accent. Hurricane House. Miami, 1968.

External links[edit]