The '93 Superstorm. The Storm of the Century. The Great Blizzard of 1993. The No-Name Storm.
These are all monikers for the storm that holds the record as the worst winter storm in U.S. history. And while the storm has no official title in Florida, it has accurately been dubbed the Storm of the Century in and out of our state.
The Storm of the Century affected 40 percent of the nation's population, dumping snow from Mobile, Ala., to the Florida Panhandle and also from Chicago to Nova Scotia.
The March 12, 1993 storm killed more than 300 people - three times more than hurricanes Hugo and Andrew combined, whipped Cuba with 130 mph winds and shut down every major airport along the U.S. east coast.
It killed 44 people in Florida - 28 directly during the storm. Damages totaled $1.6 billion in Florida alone, with 18,000 homes destroyed and 11 confirmed tornadoes. The storm also established a permanent place in memories of longtime Floridians and the history books.
"Why was this thing so deadly?" said Bay News 9 Chief Meteorologist Mike Clay. "I think a lot of people did not believe how bad it was going to be. No one had ever seen a storm surge from a winter storm in the Gulf of Mexico like that.
"So it was beyond the realm of thinking for meteorologists at that time."
A hard hit along northern Bay area coast
The North Suncoast took the brunt of the storm in the Bay area, with Hernando County taking an especially hard hit. Sustained winds of 50 mph and gusts of up to 80 mph battered the Hernando coast for more than eight hours overnight on March 13, 1993.
In Apalachee Bay (near Tallahassee) and most of the Nature’s Coast, the storm surge levels were 11 feet above normal. Cedar Key reached 9.5, Hudson's was 9 feet, while Tarpon Springs recorded 6.5 feet and Indian Rocks Beach recorded 7 feet.
Meanwhile, in Hudson, that 9-foot tidal surge ravaged the area. Witnesses reported at least 32 boats piling up in a marina at the end of the Hudson Channel.
Marthalee Beneduci and her late husband, Al, owned the Hudson Marina at the time of the storm. The marina was underwater during the worst of the storm surge.
"The water got up to our necks," Marthalee said. "I put my cell phone up to my head and said, 'When are we going to get out of here? I think we are going to get electrocuted if we try to get out."
A $250,000 uninsured business washed away in a matter of hours.
"It's amazing how many things you lose," Beneduci said. "Because it changed our life financially forever."
One of the boats in the marina, captained by Mel Petit and Joe Ford, tried to ride out the storm on board. The boat, Bone Dry, split in half and the men died. Their bodies were never recovered. About 70 miles away in the gulf, Tim Floyd and Loring Bryant met the same fate when their vessel Mary C was capsized in the storm.
A wake-up call for the National Weather Service
The Storm of the Century also is known for how it changed storm forecasts.
This marked the first time that National Weather Service meteorologists were able to predict accurately a system's severity five days in advance.
"This was big for meteorology," Clay said. "The computer models then were not as sophisticated as the ones we have now. But the computer systems saw this coming from as far out as five days."
The computers saw the storm coming but not all of the meteorologists believed it due to the extreme weather being predicted for a March storm.
"When it first developed, we said it couldn't possibly happen, it's too intense," Clay said. "Then, after about three or four days of the computer models all saying the same thing, we knew it was happening - it became obvious this historic storm was happening and headed for the eastern part of the United States."
Surge and tornadoes in Florida, Blizzards to the north
While Bay area residents dealt with coastal surge, tornadoes and freezing temperatures, the storm dumped a deluge of snow on communities from northern Florida all the way up to Canada.
The massive storm brought severely cold air to the eastern half of the country and created the biggest snowstorm in American history. Multiple states and Canada were impacted by snowfall - including Florida. Ice pellets reportedly mixed in with rain as far south as Tampa while the Panhandle and Jacksonville saw snow.
Snow totals topped 20 inches in Massachusetts, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Lincoln, New Hampshire recorded 35 inches, Syracuse, New York had 43 inches and Snowshoe, West Virginia had a total of 54 inches of snow during the three-day storm.
The record snow totals collapsed roofs throughout the South and a new term came into the weather lexicon as "thundersnow'' was touted after the no-name's almost 60,000 lightning strikes were recorded.
All totaled, the storm impacted 26 states with heavy snowfall along its trail of destruction.