The No Name Storm of 1993

This is a blog post I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I was reading one of Damon’s recent blogs, and he mentioned the March storm of 1993. This got me thinking about that storm and how it affected my life. If you grew up in Central Oklahoma, a weather day you probably can’t forget is May 3rd, 1999….for me, it’s March 13th, 1993.

Let me set the stage. I was 16-years-old, a sophomore in high school. I had lived in Crystal River, Florida my entire life. If you heard of manatees, you’ve heard of Crystal River. It’s a small town right on the west coast of Florida. A six-mile river connects the Gulf of Mexico to the fresh, spring fed waters of Crystal Bay. Our family home was on a man-made canal off of the bay. A fresh water canal right behind the house was a nice way to grow up, and a good way to stay cool in the summer.

And summer is when you’d expect to see the devastating effects of weather in Florida..after all, that’s when hurricane season was. In 1985, we had gotten lucky when Hurricane Elena did a u-turn right off the coast (the center was projected to cross over Crystal River). Even at my young age I could tell my parents were worried, they didn’t think we’d have a house standing the next day. This time, we weren’t as lucky.

It was early Saturday morning, especially by teenager standards. My Dad woke me up around 7:15am and said I had to get dressed and help him move water pumps from the seawall, as water was coming over it. I remember being tired enough not to really understand, but I go dressed and headed outside. It didn’t take long to wake-up, the temperature was in the upper 30s and the wind was a good 30-50mph, a chill to the air I had never felt in Florida before.

Water was lapping over the seawall, and there were whitecaps in our canal! I helped my Dad move the water pumps and asked him what was going on. He said a storm was headed our way and the tidal surge was supposed to be significant.

As the morning wore on, the water kept coming. It wasn’t long before half of the backyard was underwater, and the water was beginning to move around the house and come up the driveway. Remember, 50+ mph winds were driving this water. I think even then, we didn’t believe the water would actually make it to the house.

We watched as my Dad’s 300ZX slowly was engulfed by water. The car’s computer was under the driver’s seat, and when the water reached that part of the car, the horns and lights went crazy. A sad, but somewhat amusing end.

I think that was the only lighter moment of the day, it got serious quick. The water kept coming at a fever pitch and people started to panic. We looked across the canal and saw an elderly man and woman getting into the plastic part of a wheelbarrow, as if to use it as a life raft. Luckily, they thought the better of it and headed back inside. By that time, they were in waist-high water.

The news of the flooding must have spread quickly, because we noticed onlookers driving by, with no business being in the neighborhood but to watch houses succumb to the water. Some onlookers watching from a humpback bridge were in for a surprise. The water rose so fast, it flooded the road and only the bridge was above water. Several people had to be rescued by airboats, and I bet none of them lived near our neighborhood. I saw all of this from my backyard.

Soon the inevitable happened, the water made it to the house. I was sitting in the living room, and you could hear the lapping of the water against the walls. Soon, water started to seep in from the doors, enough so we actually had to open the doors and let the water in, as if it were an invited guest. I remember walking into my bedroom, ankle-deep in water, not believing this all just happened in a matter of hours.

The water stayed in the house for a couple of hours. As a reference, our home was 9 feet above sea-level and we had four inches to a foot of water in the house, so a tidal surge of about 10 feet.  As the low-pressure area moved northeast, the winds swung around to the north and drug all the water back out, just like the tide. The low was so strong that in two hours, there was hardly any water left in the canal! A tidal swing of about 20 feet!

As bad as that day was, everyone we knew was fine. I think the worst part came the next day, we had no power, and woke up to rotting carpet. The wind had driven in not only fresh water, but salt water from the Gulf, and it was making the carpet stink. We spent most of the day pulling all of the carpet outside of the house, as did our neighbors. It looked like a neighborhood carpet sale.

Because it was salt water, they had to completely gut the house of the lowest four feet of dry wall, we lost all of our furniture and were out of the house for six months. We were fortunate, my parents had flood insurance and we were able to find a nice place to stay where the house was being rebuilt. Some of my friends were not as fortunate.

This same storm moved up the East Coast and became “The Blizzard of 1993″, and to some, “The Storm of the Century”. The weather records it broke are far to numerous to mention here. One that does stick in my head though is that Birmingham, Alabama got 18 inches of snow. Are you kidding me? What a storm.

As I wrote this blog, reliving this experience  reminded me of how it affected my sense of how great weather can impact our lives and the respect we must give mother nature and extreme weather events. I try to use the respect I gained for weather when I was 16 to help me when forecasting and dealing with Oklahoma’s extreme weather.

Rusty

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9 Responses

  1. What an amazing story! Crystal River is a beautiful area. What a wonderful place to grow-up!

  2. my neighbor experienced the same storm and she lived by the airforce base and she said she saw three big balls of light hanging in the sky and a weather man said that there is such thing and its called ball lightning isnt that weird

  3. Yeah i lived in Brooksville, FL then and it was bad i was only 3 or 4 and i remember i couldnt walk against the wind and someone had to push me and our neighbors roof got blown off. This year is expected to be a huge hurricane season and i still live in fl…fun fun.

  4. Thank you for sharing with us. We owned a condo in St. Pete at that time and used it as a place to visit. We lived up north in Chicagoland area and were not affected by the storm. Now we retired and live in Brooksville. I was just wondering about how bad was the wind and surge.

    • The storm surge was about 9 to 10 feet in our area. I believe our house was about 9 1/2 feet above sea level. The wind was howling in the morning, probably over 40mph. It made for about the coldest I’ve ever felt in Florida.

  5. Funny I stumbled upon this blog entry. For some reason I remembered the no-name storm out of the blue and decided to see what was out there on the internet.

    I’m also from Crystal River. May family moved to the area shortly before the no-name storm. We lived several miles inland, so we weren’t dramatically affected by the flooding. However, my uncle and cousins lived in Homosassa on the water. They were flooded out of their house and had to stay at a hotel for some time.

    When I talk about the storm with others in the area who were impacted, most have the same memory….the constant sound of air boats. Air boats became the principal mode of transportation in the areas that were once above water. I feel like we heard them for weeks, even though it was probably only a few days.

  6. That’s so interesting! I am staying in Homosassa on vacation and a local man told me about this storm, and that he was rescuing people off of rooftops in his boat.

  7. I lived in the community of Ozello March 13 , 1993 and we got a bit more water than most of Crystal River saw . We had at least 5 foot of the Gulf of Mexico inside the entire House . I had worked the graveyard shift at a Crystal River Convienuionce store when the storm started in the very earily hours of the morning [ around 2:00 am ]. High winds through Crystal River had the police following Large highway Signage down Hwy 19 through C/R . I Called my house in Ozello and My youngest son answered the Phone almost instantly Aned I asked him how things at home were ? His response was ; Water in the back yard and Really hard Wind coming from the south west . By the way my son was 11 years old with birthday coming in June . I told my son to wake his Step-mother and watch closely and if the water got to the Steps to take one of the Boats and get to safety . That was the last time I talked to him for 48 hours . When I got off work I drove toward home at the same time the largue part of the Surgue was on its way in from the Gulf If you know Ozello Then you know where the first Business is just over 6 miles out the trail West off Hwy 19 toward the gulf . Which is where my car Drowned ! I abanded my car and litterally started Wadeing & Swimming toward home , in hopes of finding my Wife and Son somewhere along the way in one of our boats . AS I made my way past the Church in Ozello I saw the Fuel Tanks at the Ozello Store Float out of thier Confignment and flip over on there sides spilling some Gasoline into the now rushing water and to ad to possable Disaster a couple of power lines were Sparking , but Flashed then stopped ! Stopping and hanging onto a Road sign to catch my Breath a few boats came by wanting to take me out of the flood , but being hard headed I said no thanks , have to go home & check on family ! A comandeared boat with our Asst.Fire Chief came to me and asked what I was doing , my response was going home . They pulled me from the water and we headed for my house , Checking other Houses along the way for people stranded or in need of help .
    When we got to my house the only one home was the dog inside the house and just doing fine , You see she just loved Water and was a great swimmer swimming from one piece of flooting furniture to another most of which was just delivered the Day before the Flood . I learned a couple of days later that my son had Been intrumental in rescueing Himself and his Stepmother ! Mom wouldn’t let him go for a boat affraid he might get swept away by the current . So she decided they should walk out Which became an adventure for them, with the current and the water depth they kept flooting and getting washed away . Finally the 11year old convinced mom to walk off the road useing trees as a type of hand rail till they got up current of a house they could Drift/Swim to .Once they got to a stilt house owned by some great folks about 1/4 mile away mom went inside to get warm , while son asked if he could stay out on the porch to watch the flood water!About four more people arrived at this Stilt home and someone asked how the managed to get there they said that some young man from the porch came and helped them !

    Meanwhile i stayed with the Asst.Fire Chief and aided with Evacuation of Folks from many of the LOWER FLOODED structures of Ozello . Best news although many lost Cars Trucks and All form of motor vehicle , and countless possions . NO LIVES WERE LOST IN OZELLO [March 13 1993]

  8. I too was in the No-name storm ,at 0600 I was called by my agency ,the old GFC.I was told to take my patrol boat to highway 19 and sr50,and there would be an Lt.waiting there to give instructions.
    Upon arrival I was met by four officers and the Lt., The Lt. then asked ,”Who is single ?” I said ,” I am ” at that point I was told to pull my boat west on SR 50 until it floated on the trailer ( only way to launch it ) then power down the highway , at the point of the causway turn NW out to Pine Island.
    Well first off the only way to know where the ” Highway” was , was to follow the tree tops ! Second off ,I was in a 16 ft boat ! When I arrived at the bay to cross to Pine Island I was met by huge waves ,in the distance I could make out what appeared to be houses on stilts ,I knew I was in for trouble. When I attempted to motor into the surf I was pushed backwards by 60 mph winds and surf and it was at this point I thought this was going to be the way I end this career,not in a gunfight with a poacher ,but a power of wills between myself and a storm. .
    This boat that I was in was a 16 ft Sailfish,it was powered by a 90 hp Merc,and the boat itself was self bailing .I decided that it was now or never and at 33 years old it was not hard to decide that.I , for the first time ever, hooked myself to the saftey switch,turned on the blue lights and powered that Merc to about 3/4 power .It was not sheets of water from the waves that I was met with but MATTRESS’ ! The boat was able to jump from wave top to wave top until I was able to reach the first home all occupants were on the roof .Remember ,these were stilt homes and I was tying off to their second floor ,climbing to the roof ,then calling in the CG chopper to pluck them off !
    The weather channel now has a program about that day on Storm Stories,although the CG gets the credit I know I was the Idiot that raised his han to go.Would I do it again ? Nope , although I now work in EMS ,I am older and wiser!

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