Mother Nature molded modern-day John's Pass

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John's Pass is a bustling tourist attraction, a fishing Mecca, and an entertainment district with shops and restaurants on Boca Ciega Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

"Lots of fishermen, lots of boats running in and out. It's really one of the busier passes that we have in the Tampa Bay area," said Rodney Kite-Powell Director Touchton Map Library at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Sea salt runs through the veins of Dylan Hubbard's family, long-time owners of the sprawling John's Pass Marina bearing their name.

"Without this Pass, a lot of the bigger boats wouldn't have access to the Gulf," explained Dylan Hubbard Vice President/Co-Owner Hubbard's Marina.

None of this would exist if it weren't for Mother Nature. Before the mid-1800s, there was no John's Pass.

"John's Pass was created by a hurricane that hit the Tampa Bay area in September of 1848," said Kite-Powell.

Turning the sleepy village of Madiera Beach into a ghost town.

"The few people that were there, in what is now part of Pinellas County, their houses were gone, washed away," he said.
The unnamed storm still stands as the strongest hurricane to strike Tampa Bay in recorded history. The storm carved the pass first navigated by John Levique, who it's named after.

"The John of John's Pass was your basic settler in early Florida," said Kite-Powell.

Historic maps and charts from 1779 and 1855 show how the storm sliced through Barrier Islands, creating wide paths, and new islands.

"You can see the entrance of Tampa Bay. You can see Mullet Key as it appeared just after the storm."  "You can see Egmont Key which is quite a bit bigger in 1779, then it is over here on this 1855 map," Kite Powell explained.

The new John's Pass drew fishing fleets, a seafood industry, tourist attraction, and development boom in the post-storm era.

"Of course the thing that none of us wants to think about is what happens when the next one hits," said Kite-Powell.

Or what will be left behind? What will be gone after it blows through?