Memories of 1993's deadly 'No Name Storm' help Florida residents heed warnings of Hurricane Idalia

Residents in Florida's Big Bend said they evacuated for Hurricane Idalia because they remember the flooding from the 'No Name Storm' of 1993, also known as the Storm of the Century. The winter storm brought 12-foot storm surge to Taylor County, where Idalia made landfall 30 years later.

KEATON BEACH, Fla. – Many people living along the Gulf of Mexico in Florida's Big Bend boarded up and evacuated well ahead of the full brunt of Hurricane Idalia's wrath, and some say it's because of a winter storm from 30 years ago.

While the cleanup could take months, most homes in Keaton Beach, where Hurricane Idalia made landfall on Wednesday, are still standing and so far, no fatalities have been reported in town as many residents left before the life-threatening storm surge arrived. 

Keaton Beach resident Spyridon "Spy" Aibejeris said many residents left because they remember the "No Name Storm of 1993," also known as the "Storm of the Century."

"Category 3 or 4, whatever was forecasted, it’s time to go. In 1993, we got caught in a storm that we didn’t know was coming, and we survived it," Aibejeris said.

The March 1993 winter storm first formed near Texas. As it grew, it eventually slammed into the Gulf Coast, bringing nearly a 12-foot storm surge to Taylor County, Florida, and causing 11 tornadoes in the Sunshine State. The storm moved north and became a historic blizzard, according to the National Weather Service. One hundred people died as a result of the storm, half of whom were on boats in seas as high as 65 feet. Another 118 people died from indirect causes, including post-storm cleanup, according to the NWS.

Hanging on for dear life

Aibejeris was 12 years old during the No Name Storm and said he survived by holding onto 2x4s in his home.

"Twelve-foot waves crashing through the house. As the waves would come in, we would jump to keep our heads above water," Aibejris said. "Then as the night went on, it got so cold that we would actually when the waves would come in, we would go under the water because the water was warmer than the air temperature."

In the South, it's known as the "No Name Storm" and it's the reason building codes were changed in Taylor County. Most homes in Keaton Beach are on stilts today because of the 1993 storm, which enabled structures to survive Idalia's storm surge.

Water gauges in Cedar Key, Florida just south of where Idalia made landfall in Florida's Big Bend reported a 6.89-foot water level above normally dry ground. The National Hurricane Center forecast a possible 10 to 15-foot storm surge for the region.

Woke up to floating flip-flops

FOX 35 Orlando reporter David Martin spoke to JJ, a resident whose family has lived in Crystal River, Florida for generations. They recalled the flooding from the 1993 storm when deciding to evacuate for Idalia. 

Crystal River flooded after Idalia’s eye passed the Gulf Coast. Those who did not evacuate were surprised by the storm surge at high tide on Wednesday hours after the landfall. 

JJ said after living through the 1993 storm, his grandmother and mother evacuated ahead of Idalia. 

"She woke up to her flip-flops floating in the house back in 1993," JJ said. "This time, she was out."

The FOX Forecast Center said Idalia was the strongest hurricane to strike the Big Bend area – especially near Cedar Key – in 125 years, dating back to an unnamed 1896 storm.

The 1896 storm made landfall near Cedar Key with 125 mph winds and brought 10.5 feet of storm surge. Further south along the Gulf of Mexico, Yankeetown received 12.6 feet of storm surge, according to the National Weather Service.  

The NWS estimates about 100 people died during the Cedar Key 1896 storm; most of them were killed by storm surge. 

As cleanup from Idalia gets underway residents in Keaton Beach like Aibejeris say even with the increasing storm threats there is no place he would rather live.

"It's home. You know, I'm not sure exactly why we put ourselves through this, but we don't want to leave," he said. "When we do, we come back and hopefully just rebuild."