Welcome to Florida!
Florida is a state of the United States. It is located in the Southeastern United States, bordering Alabama to the northwest and Georgia to the north. Much of the land mass of the state is a large peninsula with the Gulf of Mexico to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Caribbean to the south. Florida was admitted as the 27th U.S. state in 1845, after over three hundred years of settlement and colonization. With an area of 65,758 square miles (170,306 km2), it is ranked 22nd in size among the 50 U.S. states. Florida has the most coastline in the Contiguous United States encompassing approximately 1,200 miles. The state has four large urban areas, a number of smaller industrial cities, and many small towns.
Florida is nicknamed the "Sunshine State" because of its generally warm climate-subtropical in the northern and central regions of the state, with a true tropical climate in the southern portion. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the state population was 18,537,969 in 2009, ranking Florida as the fourth most populous state in the U.S. Tallahassee is the state capital, Jacksonville is the largest city, and the South Florida metropolitan area is the largest metropolitan area.
Much of the state of Florida is situated on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. Spanning two time zones, It extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is near several Caribbean countries, particularly The Bahamas and Cuba. Florida's extensive coastline made it a perceived target during World War II, so the government built airstrips throughout the state; today, approximately 400 airports are still in service. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Florida has 131 public airports, and more than 700 private airports, airstrips, heliports, and seaplane bases. Florida is one of the largest states east of the Mississippi River, and only Alaska and Michigan are larger in water area. At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Much of the state south of Orlando is low-lying and fairly level; however, some places, such as Clearwater, feature vistas that rise 50 to 100 feet (15 - 30 m) above the water. Much of Central and North Florida, typically 25 miles (40 km) or more away from the coastline, features rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 feet (30 - 76 m). The highest point in peninsular Florida, Sugarloaf Mountain, is a 312-foot (95 m) peak in Lake County.
The state line begins in the Atlantic Ocean, traveling west, south, and north up the thalweg of the Saint Mary's River. At the origin of that river, it then follows a straight line nearly due west and slightly north, to the point where the confluence of the Flint River (from Georgia) and the Chattahoochee River (down the Alabama/Georgia line) used to form Florida's Apalachicola River. (Since Woodruff Dam was built, this point has been under Lake Seminole.) The border with Georgia continues north through the lake for a short distance up the former thalweg of the Chattahoochee, then with Alabama runs due west along latitude 31°N to the Perdido River, then south along its thalweg to the Gulf via Perdido Bay. Much of the state is at or near sea level.
The climate of Florida is tempered somewhat by the fact that no part of the state is very distant from the ocean. North of Lake Okeechobee, the prevalent climate is humid subtropical, while coastal areas south of the lake (including the Florida Keys) have a true tropical climate. High temperatures in the state seldom exceed 100 °F (38 °C), with much of Florida commonly seeing a high summer temperature of 90s °F (32+ °C). During late autumn and winter months, Florida has experienced occasional cold fronts that can bring high winds and relatively cooler temperatures for the entire state, with high temperatures that could remain into the 40s and 50s (4 to 15 °C) and lows of 20s and 30s (-7 to 4 °C) for few days in the northern and central parts of Florida, although below-freezing temperatures are very rare in the southern part of the state. Low temperatures have been 10's, and high temperature (at their lowest) in the upper 30s. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Florida was 109 °F (43 °C), which was set on June 29, 1931 in Monticello. The coldest temperature was -2 °F (-19 °C), on February 13, 1899, just 25 miles (40 km) away, in Tallahassee. Mean high temperatures for late July are primarily in the low 90s Fahrenheit (32-35 °C). Mean low temperatures for late January range from the low 40s Fahrenheit (4-7 °C) in northern Florida to the mid-50s (~13 °C) in southern Florida. The seasons in Florida are determined more by precipitation than by temperature, with the hot, wet springs and summers making up the wet season, and mild to cool, and the relatively dry winters and autumns, making the dry season. Fall foliage appears in Central and North Florida starting around late November, and into Winter. The Florida Keys, because they are completely surrounded by water, have lesser variability in temperatures. At Key West, temperatures rarely exceed 90 °F (32 °C) in the summer or fall below 60 °F (16 °C) in the winter, and frost has never been reported in the Keys.
Florida's nickname is the "Sunshine State", but severe weather is a common occurrence in the state. Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, as it experiences more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the country. Florida has the highest average precipitation of any state, in large part because afternoon thunderstorms are common in most of the state from late spring until early autumn. A fair day may be interrupted with a storm, only to return to sunshine an hour or so later. These thunderstorms, caused by overland collisions of moist masses of air from the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean, pop up in the early afternoon and can bring heavy downpours, high winds, and sometimes tornadoes. Florida leads the United States in tornadoes per square mile (when including waterspouts) but they do not typically reach the intensity of those in the Midwest and Great Plains. Hail often accompanies the most severe thunderstorms. Snow in Florida is a rare occurrence, especially on the peninsula. During the Great Blizzard of 1899, Florida experienced blizzard conditions; the Tampa Bay area had "gulf-effect" snow, similar to lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes region. During the 1899 blizzard was the only time the temperature in Florida is known to have fallen below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (-18 °C). The most widespread snowfall in Florida history occurred on January 19, 1977, when snow fell over much of the state, with flurries as far south as Homestead. Snow flurries also fell on Miami Beach for the only time in recorded history. A hard freeze in 2003 brought "ocean-effect" snow flurries to the Atlantic coast as far south as Cape Canaveral. The 1993 Superstorm brought blizzard conditions to the panhandle, while heavy rain and tornadoes beset the peninsula. The storm is believed to have been similar in composition to a hurricane, some Gulf coast regions even seeing storm surges of six feet or more. More recently, traces of snow and sleet fell across central and southern Florida during a hard freeze event in January, 2010. There was some slight accumulation north of the I-4 corridor, mostly in the form of sleet. Hurricanes pose a severe threat during hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30, although some storms have been known to form out of season. Florida is the most hurricane-prone US state, with subtropical or tropical water on a lengthy coastline. From 1851 to 2006, Florida has been struck by 114 hurricanes, 37 of them major-category 3 and above. It is rare for a hurricane season to pass without any impact in the state by at least a tropical storm. For storms, category 4 or higher, 83% have either hit Florida or Texas. August to October is the most likely period for a hurricane in Florida.
Florida has the 4th highest state population in the United States. The center of population of Florida is located in Polk County, in the town of Lake Wales. As of 2009, Florida's population was estimated to be 18,537,969. The state grew 128,814, or 0.7% from 2007. Using the latest population estimates, Florida is the nation's thirtieth-fastest-growing state. During Florida's peak growth year of 2005, it was the nation's fifth fastest growing state and grew at an annual rate of 2.2%. About two-thirds of the population was born in another state, the second highest in the country. The state had the third largest illegal immigrant population in the country in 2009. In 2010, illegal immigrants constituted an estimated 5.7% of the population. This was the sixth highest percentage of any state in the country.
The largest metropolitan area in the state as well as the entire southeastern United States is the South Florida metropolitan area, with about 5.5 million people. The Tampa Bay area, with over 2.7 million people, is the second largest metro area and Greater Orlando, with over 2 million people, is the third.
Florida has twenty Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Thirty-nine of Florida's sixty-seven counties are in an MSA. Reflecting the distribution of population in Florida, Metropolitan areas in the state are concentrated around the coast of the peninsula. They form a continuous band on the east coast of Florida, stretching from the Jacksonville MSA to the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach MSA, including every county on the east coast, with the exception of Monroe County. There is also a continuous band of MSAs on the west coast of the peninsula from the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA to the Naples-Marco Island MSA, including all of the coastal counties from Hernando County to Collier County. The interior of the northern half of the peninsula also has several MSAs, connecting the east and west coast MSAs. A few MSAs are scattered across the Florida panhandle.
As of 2000, 76.91% of Florida residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 16.46% spoke Spanish, and French Creole (predominantly Haitian Creole) was spoken by 1.380f the population. French was spoken by 0.83%, followed by German at 0.59%, and Italian at 0.44% of all residents. Also, Portuguese comprised 0.36%, while Tagalog made up 0.25% of speakers, Arabic was at 0.21% and Vietnamese at 0.20%. In all, 23.80% of Florida's population age 5 and older spoke a language other than English at home.
As of the year 2000, the three largest denominational groups in Florida are Catholic, Evangelical Protestant, and Mainline Protestant. The Catholic Church has the highest number of adherents in Florida (at 2,596,148), followed by the Southern Baptist Convention with 1,292,097 members reported and Judaism reporting 628,485 adherents. Florida is mostly Protestant, but Roman Catholicism is the single largest denomination in the state.
In 2009, Per Capita personal income was $37,780, ranking 24th in the nation. The state was one of the few states to not have a state minimum wage law until 2004, when voters passed a constitutional amendment establishing a state minimum wage and (unique among minimum wage laws) mandating that it be adjusted for inflation annually. For 2010, the calculated Florida minimum wage was lower than the Federal rate of $7.25, so the Federal rate controlled. Florida is one of the nine states that do not impose a personal income tax
Tourism makes up the largest sector of the state economy. Warm weather and hundreds of miles of beaches attract about 60 million visitors to the state every year. Amusement parks, especially in the Orlando area, make up a significant portion of tourism. The Walt Disney World Resort is the largest vacation resort in the world, consisting of four theme parks and more than 20 hotels in Lake Buena Vista, Florida; it, and Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and other major parks drive state tourism. Many beach towns are also popular tourist destinations, particularly in the winter months. 23.2 million tourists visited Florida beaches in 2000, spending $21.9 billion. The public has a right to beach access under the public trust doctrine. However, some areas have access effectively blocked by private owners for a long distance.
Phosphate mining, concentrated in the Bone Valley, is the state's third-largest industry. The state produces about 75% of the phosphate required by farmers in the United States and 25% of the world supply, with about 95% used for agriculture (90% for fertilizer and 5% for livestock feed supplements) and 5% used for other products. Since the arrival of the NASA Merritt Island launch sites on Cape Canaveral (most notably Kennedy Space Center) in 1962, Florida has developed a sizable aerospace industry. Another major economic engine in Florida is the United States Military. There are currently 24 military bases in the state, housing three Unified Combatant Commands; United States Central Command in Tampa, United States Southern Command in Doral, and United States Special Operations Command in Tampa. There are 109,390 U.S. military personnel currently stationed in Florida, contributing, directly and indirectly, $52 billion a year to the state's economy.
Historically, Florida's economy was based upon cattle farming and agriculture (especially sugarcane, citrus, tomatoes, and strawberries). The second largest industry is agriculture. Citrus fruit, especially oranges, are a major part of the economy, and Florida produces the majority of citrus fruit grown in the U.S. - in 2006 67% of all citrus, 74% of oranges, 58% of tangerines, and 54% of grapefruit. About 95% of commercial orange production in the state is destined for processing (mostly as orange juice, the official state beverage). Citrus canker continues to be an issue of concern. Other products include sugarcane, strawberries, tomatoes and celery. The Everglades Agricultural Area is a major center for agriculture. The environmental impact of agriculture - especially water pollution - is a major issue in Florida today.
Florida's interstates, state highways and U.S. Highways are maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation. Florida's interstate highway system contains 1,473 miles (2,371 km) of highway, and there are 9,934 miles (15,987 km) of non-interstate highway in the state, such as Florida state highways and U.S. Highways. State highways are numbered according to a specific convention. The first digits of state highways, with some exceptions (such as State Road 112 connecting Interstate 95 to the Miami International Airport), are numbered with the first digit indicating what area of the state the road is in, from 1 in the north and east to 9 in the south and west. Major north-south state roads generally have one- or two-digit odd route numbers that increase from east to west, while major east-west state roads generally have one- or two-digit even route numbers that increase from north to south. Roads of secondary importance usually have three-digit route numbers. The first digit x of their route number is the same as the first digit of the road with two-digit number x0 to the immediate north. The three-digit route numbers also increase from north to south for even numbers and east to west for odd numbers.
Major international airports in Florida which processed more than 15 million passengers each in 2006 are Orlando International Airport (34,128,048), Miami International Airport (32,533,974), Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport(21,369,577) and Tampa International Airport (18,867,541). Secondary airports, with annual passenger traffic exceeding 5 million each in 2006, include Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers) (7,643,217), Palm Beach International Airport (West Palm Beach) (7,014,237), and Jacksonville International Airport (5,946,188). Regional Airports which processed over one million passengers each in 2006 are Pensacola (1,620,198) and Sarasota-Bradenton (1,423,113). Sanford, which is primarily served by international charter airlines processed 1,649,565 passengers in 2006.
Most Major League Baseball's spring training, and nearly 2/3 of all MLB teams have a spring training presence in the state. Yet Florida did not have a permanent major-league-level professional sports team until the American Football League added the Miami Dolphins in 1966. The state now has three NFL teams, two MLB teams, two NBA teams, and two NHL teams.
There are many attractions in Florida. There are forests, lakes, rivers, mountains and of course the ocean.
So what are you waiting for. Come to Florida and see for youself.
Good information about the state of Florida can be found on the following web sites: