Winter Storm Elliott spared Florida from its brutally frigid temperatures, whiteout conditions, massive power outages and major vehicle pileups on slippery roads — experienced in many parts of the nation.
The precise death toll resulting from the unrelenting cold, snow and dangerous conditions was uncertain, as The Laker/Lutz News went to press. But the number of dead continued to mount in the days following Christmas, based on national news reports.
Tampa escaped the harshest effects but it experienced one of its coldest Christmases in recent memory. Temperatures of 31 degrees Fahrenheit were recorded on both Christmas Eve and Christmas mornings, according to the Tampa Bay Office of the National Weather Service.
Those temperatures were much higher than the 20 degrees recorded in Tampa on Christmas Day in 1983. The weather also was chillier on Christmas Eve in 1989, when the low reached 24 degrees and there were snow flurries, according to the weather service.
Still, by Tampa standards, it was cold.
National television news reports showed images of airports across the country crowded with people waiting for their flights to be rescheduled, as well as a huge backlog of luggage at Tampa International Airport (TPA).
Initially, the harsh weather caused cancellations at major hubs, creating a domino effect at other airports around the country.
Tampa’s airport experienced a significant number of flight cancellations and delays around the holiday weekend because of deteriorated weather conditions around the country, according to Emily Nipps, director of communications at TPA.
After the weather improved, however, Southwest has continued canceling flights. Thousands have been canceled around the country, including hundreds at TPA.
For instance, of TPA’s 115 canceled flights on Dec. 28, all but eight were Southwest flights, Nipps said.
“All of the airlines are now back on track, for the most part, except for Southwest,” she said.
The massive disruptions caused by Southwest cancellations across the country enraged passengers, many expressing their anger and frustration in television interviews.
Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg responded by telling NBC News that his department will be looking into Southwest’s scheduling system.
Buttigieg told NBC: “This has clearly crossed the line from what’s an uncontrollable weather situation into something that is the airline’s direct responsibility.”
In a video, Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan apologized for the disruptions and said “we’re doing everything we can to return to normal operation.”
Jordan also pledged that improvements would be made to prevent this from happening again.
Aside from travel disruptions, the cold weather also prompted local governments to open shelters to help those in need to stay warm.
Both Pasco and Hillsborough counties responded to chilly conditions by opening cold weather shelters to provide a warm place for people to spend the night.
Pasco County’s shelters were open on Dec. 23, Dec. 24 and Dec. 25, and Hillsborough’s partners provided shelter on Dec. 23, Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Dec. 26.
Published January 04, 2023