Jun 22, 2021 - News

What would happen if the 1921 hurricane hit Tampa Bay today

Schooner "Thomas B. Garland," aground after a hurricane in Tampa Bay in 1921. Photo: State Archives of Florida

Remember little Tropical Storm Eta back in November, and the storm surge that ravaged our coastlines, sent salt water gushing into homes and garages and triggered the rescue of 33 people from high water?

👇 This was the post-Eta Riverwalk in downtown Tampa.

  • Eta's storm surge was 3.5 feet. The 1921 hurricane, which made landfall at Tarpon Springs, brought a reported surge of 10.5 feet.
  • So in these photos, picture the water over our heads.
The Tampa Riverwalk fully underwater after Tropical Storm Eta's 3.5-foot storm surge. Photo: Ben Montgomery/Axios
Ben walks south on the Tampa Riverwalk on Nov. 12 after Tropical Storm Eta. Photo: Asher Montgomery/Axios

Bay News 9 meteorologist Nick Merianos imagines that scenario:

  • Water would lap at the second-story balcony on coastal buildings. 
  • Airports would flood, including parts of Tampa International, Clearwater St. Pete International, Peter O'Knight and Albert Whitted Airport. 
  • The lower levels of Tampa General Hospital would flood.
  • Transportation would come to a halt, and Pinellas County would become essentially two islands. 
"There's no question that a storm like this will happen again. The return rate is about every 100 to 150 years. Statistically speaking, we are in that window, and chances are we will eventually see one in or near Tampa Bay."
Bay News 9 meteorologist Nick Merianos

The (scary) bottom line: There are 3 million more people living here than in 1921.


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