The 1848 Tampa Bay Hurricane

The 'Granddaddy' of all Hurricanes

Read the harrowing story of the survivors of the "grandaddy" of all hurricanes.

The Tampa Bay 1848 hurricane, also called the 1848 Great Gale, was the most severe hurricane to affect Tampa Bay, Florida at this time. The other major hurricane which made a landfall in Tampa Bay area was in 1921. The 1848 hurricane took place from September 23rd to 25th, 1848, and caused damage to east coast areas around September 26th.

It reshaped the coast line in many areas and also destroyed the few human habitations and works in the Tampa Bay Region. Only 5 houses remained standing and all the rest were damaged in Tampa. The storm wiped out citrus crops and destroyed main houses in the plantation at St. Helena. Pinellas Country was largely inundated with floods, and the strong winds felled almost all trees along Indian Rocks Road of Largo

The storm occurred prior to the keeping of meteorological records, but the storm surge is considered to be consistent with a hurricane of Category 4 strength. A survivor recalled the storm as a "granddaddy" of hurricanes.

The hurricane made landfall in Clearwater and exited the peninsula at Cape Canaveral. After this, it continued to churn in the Atlantic ocean before making landfall again in the Grand Banks area of Newfoundland. Winds of 72 miles per hour were recorded at Fort Brooke, and the storm produced the highest storm tides ever recorded in the Tampa Bay as water rose and fell 15 feet in 6 to 8 hours.

Residents had suffered hurricanes before, such as the The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846, which also hit Tampa Bay as a major hurricane. However author Jay Barnes wrote in his “The Hurricane History of Florida” that the 1848 hurricane was by far the worst. Eye witnesses recounted that the weather went from a sultry condition to a stormy one on Sept. 24 and, by the morning of the 25th, Tampa was facing the full throes of a massive storm. There were torrential rains whipped by the hurricane force winds with monster waves crashing ashore throughout the day according to eye witnesses. According to historian Karl Grismer, "By noon the water levels rose by 15ft, and stayed there for hours. At the Egmont Key lighthouse, the keeper put all his family members in his boat secured by tying it to the trees in middle of Tampa Bay Island. In the night, raging winds battered the boat and the next day the high waters lifted the boat on top of trees."