On Friday, March 12, 1993, many Citrus Countians were enjoying a typical night watching “Matlock,” “Seinfeld” or “Cheers” on TV.
The 11 p.m. news gave no indication of a major weather event headed this way. They went to bed only to be awakened through the night by loud howling sounds and intermittent flashes of lightning.
In the morning, coastal residents woke up to winds in excess of 90 mph, scattered tornadoes (which caused three deaths in Levy County), and water from the Gulf of Mexico coming inside their home. People lost power. Tree limbs were scattered everywhere.
They didn’t know it then, but they were witnessing one of the biggest meteorological phenomena of the century. It eventually came to be known by various names: Storm of the Century, Blizzard of the Century, Superstorm and (the more common) No-Name Storm.
But Citrus Countians called it pure hell.
The storm, which was actually a rare March hurricane, pushed coastal waters 6-feet above normal and surged inland behind the force of hurricane-strength gusts of up to 90 mph.
Crystal River was underwater.
Emergency crews used boats to rescue people trapped in flooded homes. Countless cars were submerged and the property damage was in the millions. The area was declared a disaster area by then-Gov. Lawton Chiles.
A ‘meteorological bomb’
Five days before all this, computer models were forecasting a rapid development of intense low pressure over the Gulf of Mexico.
From there, conditions worsened. Here’s how the National Weather Service (NWS) described it:
“It was initially difficult to believe that a weak low pressure area could deepen to much lower pressures in such a short period of time. Some forecasters used the term “meteorological bomb.”
“As the week went on, the numerical forecast models continued showing the same unbelievable development. Upstream, the arctic, polar and subtropical jet streams were merging and a deep flow of tropical moisture over the Gulf of Mexico was coming north from the Caribbean Sea. These merging factors set the timer for the impending explosion.”
Not just Citrus County’s storm
This massive storm that lasted from March 12-14 didn’t just affect the Florida Gulf Coast.
It swept from the Deep South all the way up the East Coast.
With a central pressure usually found in Category 3 hurricanes, the storm spawned tornadoes and left coastal flooding, crippling snow, and bone-chilling cold in its wake, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
During the height of the storm, snowfall rates of 2–3 inches per hour occurred. New York’s Catskill Mountains along with most of the central and southern Appalachians received at least 2 feet of snow, the NOAA said.
Wind-driven sleet also fell on parts of the East Coast, with central New Jersey reporting 2.5 inches of sleet on top of 12 inches of snow – creating somewhat of an “ice-cream sandwich” effect. Up to 6 inches of snow even blanketed the Florida Panhandle, the NOAA said.
More people died from drowning in the No-Name Storm than during Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew combined. The storm’s surge, winds, and tornadoes damaged or destroyed 18,000 homes More people died from drowning in this storm than during Hurricanes Hugo and Andrew combined.
In all, 270 people across the country died from the massive storm. Forty-seven Floridians lost their lives.
For Citrus Countians, it would be some 23 years later before it experienced a weather system as intense as No-Name. The wind and tide from Hurricane Hermine in September 2016 brought coastal flooding the likes of which hadn’t been seen since 1993.
Like No-Name, it too occurred in the early morning hours.
If there is any positive takeaway, the Storm of the Century upped the bar for weather forecasting to make sure people have substantial warnings. And that bodes well for Citrus County in the future.