A Digital Archive of Significant West central and southwest Florida weather events to improve the public's response to future warnings

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Charles H. Paxton, NOAA/NWS, Tampa Bay Area - Ruskin, FL; and J. Colson, K. J. Pugh, and J. M. Collins

Handout (714.7 kB)

People's perceptions of weather events are often flawed. Many people living in near the west coast of Florida believe they have experienced some of the worst Mother Nature has to offer. Their perception of their hurricane experience may be incorrect and, as a result, they may not respond appropriately to future warnings. Residents who lived in the area during Hurricane Charley (2004) may think they experienced a Category 4 hurricane. In fact, due to the small size of the storm, most residents only experienced the weaker, outer peripheral winds. Since the decisions people make are often strongly influenced by their most recent experiences, it is important to dispel any misperceptions with facts.

The NWS Tampa Bay Area office has a wealth of record books, original weather maps, news articles, and photos of major past events. Most of the material is in poor condition but has now been preserved in electronic format. The historic significant weather events were divided into four categories: hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and freezes. The preserved records, now posted on the office's Web site, can serve as a historic reference for the public, media, and emergency planners, and a reminder to complacent residents that they have not experienced the worst that can occur. It is our hope that a better knowledge of the past will result in improved responses to future weather warnings.