Did a Native American legend protect the Bay Area from a direct hit by Hurricane Irma? While many out there give credit for Irma's near miss of Tampa Bay to a higher power, just which higher power differs, depending on who you ask.

  • Native American sacred lands legend well known
  • Lands sacred due to scattered burial mounds
  • Bay area has had many close calls

On social media, those giving credit to God and Jesus for Irma's eventual path are easy to find.






But just what is the legend others in the Bay area point to as the reason Irma and so many other storms have steered clear of hitting Tampa directly?

"I guess if you believe in the Native American myth it definitely worked and still has I guess," said Rui Farias, Executive Director of the St. Petersburg History Museum.  "There are a lot of people that truly believe that the myth, or the story that they're there to protect their burial rights, and that's what's protected us against these hurricanes."

That myth dates back thousands of years ago and it involves burial mounds. Some historians believe it, while others are skeptical.

"Who am I to say that they shouldn't believe that, aside from just I'm saying I don't think it's true," said Tampa Bay History Center Curator of History Rodney Kite-Powell. "I can't say definitively it's not. I haven't done whatever one would have to do to prove that ... How do you even prove that's not true?"

Both Farias and Kite-Powell agree the Native American burial mounds truly are all over the Bay area. We found one of those burial mounds that some believe protect this area from storms at the Sacred Lands Preservation in St. Pete.

The owner, Erik Anderson, said he's not a firm believer in the legend, but also said he can understand how some people do.

"I want people to believe in the legend -- if they want to believe in it, that's their business," Anderson said. "We had a lady here yesterday that said there was some story about magnets up on the mound and it was some magical thing that kept storms away."

So is it magic or science? We asked Bay News 9 meteorologist Brian McClure.

"We’ve had a lot of close calls," McClure said. "There are different reasons every time for why we get missed or why we might get lucky. For example, we didn’t get lucky this time around, but there was a low to the west and a high to the east, and it just so happened that [Irma] went directly between the two, which is what they’re supposed to do and it saw a little channel."

"Honestly, it almost probably was luck, because if the storm would’ve gone just 20, 30 miles farther to the west it would’ve stayed stronger, been over the gulf longer and probably done a lot more damage up and down the entire western coastline for our entire region," he continued. "But there’s a difference in every single storm."