October 18-19, 1944:
Widespread Inland Wind Damage
This storm, rated a Category 3 shortly before landfall, made landfall near Nokomis (Sarasota County) then proceeded northward through central Manatee and Hillsborough Counties, and eastern Pasco County. Record low pressure was recorded at Tampa as the west side of an expanding eye passed over. Damage and observations suggest Category 1 sustained winds, with frequent gusts above Category 2 (96 mph and above). Nine fatalities occurred when a boat capsized near the mouth of Tampa Bay.
Significant crop damage was reported, with initial reports of nearly half of the Florida grapefruit and at least 15% of the orange crop destroyed. Initial press reports estimated crop damage at between $20 and $50 million - devastating by 1944 standards. Property damage was extensive as well, including both coastal and inland locations. Storm surge flooding was widespread in Charlotte and Lee Counties.
The 1944 hurricane was one of the most accurately forecast storms on record. Most residents of West Central and Southwest Florida had more than 24 hours of lead time, as the lack of fatalities given the extensive damage attests.