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Looking back at Tampa Bay’s storm of 1979

It’s been 45 years since the Tampa Bay area experienced one of its worst ever storms.

A black and white aerial shot of Tampa International Airport taken in 1979.

Tampa International was evacuated during the event.

Photo via Florida Memory

It was labeled “the storm of the century” by what was then the St. Petersburg Times.

On May 8, 1979, the Tampa Bay area was hit by one of the worst storms in its history, encompassed by enormous rainfall. Part of what made the event unusual is its timing: May is typically a dry month, but 19.64 inches of rain drenched TBAY that day. St. Pete and Pinellas County were worst-impacted, with ~10,000 residents losing power.

More than a dozen tornadoes also hit the area, with winds of 108 mph leading to an emergency evacuation of Tampa International Airport.

On the 40th anniversary of the storm, the Tampa Bay Times collected stories from residents who recall the event. Accounts included knee-deep water, overflowing creeks, floating cars, and twisters touching down.

Now we want your input. Do you remember the storm? If so, we’d love to hear your stories and we can share them in the future. Get in touch.

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