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Pebble Beach Golf Course, Florida

North America

Florida is a Southern state in the United States, situated upon a large peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. "Florida" is a Spanish adjective which means "flowery." The peninsula was discovered and settled by Juan Ponce de Leon on Easter Sunday, March 27, 1513, which is known as Pascua Florida in Spanish. Its U.S. Postal abbreviation is FL while its traditional abbreviation is Fla.
Background Information
Archaeological finds indicate that Florida had been inhabited for many thousands of years prior to any European settlements. Of the many indigenous people, the largest tribes were the Ais (tribe), Calusa, Tequesta, Timucua and the Tocobago tribes. Juan Ponce de Leon, a Spanish navigator, named this new land in honor of his discovery of the land on April 2, 1513, during Pascua Florida, which is a Spanish term for the Easter season. From that date forward, the land became known as "La Florida." Over the following century, the Spanish and French both established settlements in Florida, with varying degrees of success. Spanish Pensacola was established by Don Tristan de Luna as the first European settlement in the current United States in 1559 (its settlement was interrupted by a hurricane). Six years later, in 1565, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established Saint Augustine as the first permanent European settlement. These two cities would come to be the capitals of the British and Spanish colonies of East and West Florida.

The area of Florida diminished with the establishment of British colonies to the north and French colonies to the west. Control of parts of Florida passed among Spanish, British, and American control. Spain finally ceded Florida to the United States with the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819, in exchange for the U.S. renouncing any claims on Texas. On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state of the United States of America. Florida seceded from the Union on January 10, 1861 and was one of the founding members of the Confederate States of America (CSA, also known as the Confederacy). Florida joined the CSA on February 10, 1861. After the fall of the Confederacy in 1865, Florida was readmitted into the Union on June 25, 1868.

Until the mid-twentieth century, Florida was the least populous Southern state. However, migration from the Rust Belt combined with Florida's warm climate (tempered by the growing availability of air conditioning) made it a haven for newcomers. Today, Florida is the second most populous state in the South (behind Texas and the fourth most populous state in the United States. The USS Florida was named in honor of this state.
The climate of Florida is tempered somewhat by its proximity to water. Most of the state has a humid subtropical climate with the extreme tip of Florida and the Florida Keys bordering on a true tropical climate. However, Florida averages 300 days of full sunshine a year. The seasons in Florida often called "Hot and Hotter" are actually determined more by precipitation than by temperature with warm, relatively dry winters and autumns (the dry season) and hot, wet springs and especially the summers (the wet season). The Gulf Stream has a moderating effect on Florida climate and although it is common for much of Florida to see a high summer temperature over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it is not common for the mercury to go above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Florida. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the state was 109 F set on June 29, 1931 in Monticello. The coldest was 2 F below zero, on February 13, 1899 just 25 miles away, in Tallahassee. Mean high temperatures for late July are primarily in the low 90's. Mean low temperatures for late January range from the low 40's in North Florida to the mid-50's in South Florida.

While Florida's nickname is the "Sunshine State", severe weather is a common occurrence in Florida. Central Florida is known as the Lightning capital of the U.S. as it experiences more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the country. Statewide, Florida has the highest average precipitation of any state, due in large part to afternoon thunderstorms which are common throughout most of the state from late spring until the early autumn. However, a sunny day may be interrupted with a storm only to return to regular gorgeous weather. These thunderstorms, which are caused by airflow from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean colliding over the peninsula, seemingly "pop up" in the early afternoon and can often bring heavy downpours, high winds and sometimes tornadoes. This is frequently due to "onshore flow," or a collision of sea breezes from the east and west coasts. Florida leads the nation in tornadoes per square mile, although the tornadoes in Florida do not get as large as those in the Midwest or Great Plains. Hail is not an uncommon occurrence in some of the more severe thunderstorms.

Snow is a rare occurrence in Florida. During the Great Blizzard of 1899, Florida experienced blizzard conditions for possibly the first time since explorers had arrived. During that time, the Tampa Bay Area had "Gulf effect" snow, similar to lake effect snowfall. The Great Blizzard of 1899 was also the only time the temperature has fallen below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, registering -2F in Tallahassee on February 13, 1899. The most widespread snowfall in Florida history happened in February 1978 with snow falling over much of the state in different times of the month, extending as far south as Homestead. Snow flurries fell on Miami Beach for the only time in recorded history. In 1989, there was a severe hard freeze that created lots of ice and also caused minor flurries in sections of the state and resulted in rolling blackouts due to power failures caused by massive demands on the power grid for heating.

Although some storms have formed out of season, hurricanes pose a threat during hurricane season, which is from June 1 to November 30. Florida saw a slew of destruction in 2004 when it was hit by a record four hurricanes. Hurricanes Charley (August 13), Frances (September 4-5), Ivan (September 16), and Jeanne (September 25-26) cumulatively cost forty-two billion dollars to the state. In 2005, Hurricane Dennis (July 10) became the fifth storm to strike Florida within 11 months. Later, Hurricane Katrina (August 25) passed through South Florida and Hurricane Rita (September 20) swept through the Florida Keys. Hurricane Wilma made landfall in Florida in the early morning of October 24 as a category 3 hurricane, with storm's eye hitting near Cape Romano, just south of Marco Island, according to National Hurricane Center.

Florida was also the site of the second most costly single weather disaster in U.S. history, Hurricane Andrew, which caused more than twenty-five billion dollars ($25,000,000,000) in damage when it struck on August 24, 1992. Among a long list of other infamous hurricane strikes were the 1926 Great Miami Hurricane, the Lake Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Donna in 1960, and Hurricane Opal in 1995.
Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay
Walt Disney World, Orlando
Map of Florida