Real 'Storm of the Century' devastated Florida 21 years ago

By Blake Mathews, Weather producer, meteorologist, bmathews@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 13 2014 11:46:11 AM EDT
Updated On: Mar 13 2014 09:49:47 AM EDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

It's the only storm truly known by the title 'Storm of the Century.' While many bad storms have come and gone, this storm that hit Florida 21 years ago today brought hurricane conditions and deep snow to the state.

If you ask the general public what the 'Storm of the Century' is, you might get answers like Hurricane's Katrina or Andrew. Perhaps Superstorm Sandy. Ask a meteorologist and you're sure to get the same answer repeatedly: the March storm of 1993. 

This behemoth, comma-shaped serpent of nature was birthed in the Gulf of Mexico, deepened rapidly and brought hurricane conditions to Florida's nature coast, massive surge, devastating tornadoes and unrivaled snow totals with almost no warning at all and all in the same night.

The storm 'made landfall' in the panhandle of Florida bringing with it a 12-foot storm surge and howling hurricane force winds. The pressure in Tallahassee, Fla dropped to 976 millibars (28.84 in.) which rivals most category two hurricanes. The tsunami-like flood took with it seven lives.

Seen at left are the storm surge totals along the panhandle of Florida.

At the same time, violent tornadoes were ripping apart the landscape in central Florida. As many as eleven tornadoes killed dozens of others between Tampa and Orlando causing millions upon millions of dollars in damage.

As if putting a sheet over a deceased person in a terrible car accident, mother nature, with no electric power and perfect silence in battered, destroyed neighborhoods, dropped a peaceful, poetic blanket of deep snow across the panhandle of Florida as if to mask the mess she'd left behind. As much as four inches being reported in many locations.

When the chaos was over, 44 in Florida were dead and thousands more were injured.

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This event was not mutually exclusive to Florida. The storm brought a true blizzard to Alabama, Georgia and the Carolina's. Atlanta was paralyzed for days. 

Many pressure records were set from the Carolina's to New England. Charlotte, N.C., saw a lower pressure from the 'Storm of the Century' than from Hurricane Hugo that passed directly over the city just four years earlier.

Winds as high as 93 mph were observed in North and South Carolina. Supercell thunderstorms in Cuba had clocked winds in excess of 120 mph in the strong downbursts. That is considered unusual even for tornado alley.

When the storm finally moved out, it ranked among one of the deadliest natural disasters of the 20th century and one of the most destructive. In a three-day span, 208 people were killed from Florida to Maine.

To date, no non-tropical storm has ever rivaled the night of fury that was unleashed the night of March 13, 1993.

You can read more about it here.

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