ST. PETERSBURG -- Friday was the 167th anniversary of the 1848 hurricane -- the strongest ever to hit Tampa Bay.
Not much is known about the path; it probably formed in the Gulf of Mexico and came up the West Coast of Florida. The hurricane made a direct hit on Pinellas County, coming ashore at Clearwater.
Although the only wind measurement — 72 mph — is of a Category 1 hurricane, the pressure and storm surge is more like a strong Category 3 or even a Category 4 hurricane. The pressure dropped to 28.18 inches, or 945 mb, and the storm surge was 15 feet.
The impact on the sparsely populated area was severe. Only five buildings were left standing in Tampa, and all were damaged. Fort Brooke was destroyed. Many trees in Pinellas County were toppled.
The "Gulf met the Bay" in Pinellas, which was cut in half by the storm surge. Waters from Tampa Bay flowed back through the middle of Pinellas County to reach the Gulf of Mexico. Allen's Creek was a half-mile wide at its mouth.
There wasn't much else to damage around here in 1848; the population at the time was only a few hundred.
The Egmont Key Lighthouse, which had just been built, was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. John's Pass was cut on the coast of Pinellas and New Pass, in Sarasota County.
Due to the low population of Florida at the time, there were no reported fatalities.
Then, a few weeks later, another hurricane hit the area Oct. 11, 1848. It was not as intense as the first 1848 hurricane, but it still produced a 10-foot storm surge in Tampa Bay.