1919 Florida Keys hurricane

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1919 Florida Keys hurricane
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
1919 Florida Keys hurricane analysis 10 sept 1919.jpg
Surface weather analysis of the hurricane over the Florida Keys on September 10
FormedSeptember 2, 1919 (1919-09-02)
DissipatedSeptember 16, 1919 (1919-09-16)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:150 mph (240 km/h)
Lowest pressure927 mbar (hPa); 27.37 inHg
Fatalities772
Damage$22 million (1919 USD)
( [nb 1] )
Areas affected Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Cuba, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Mexico
Part of the 1919 Atlantic hurricane season

The 1919 Florida Keys hurricane (also known as the 1919 Key West hurricane) [1] was a massive and damaging tropical cyclone that swept across areas of the northern Caribbean Sea and the United States Gulf Coast in September 1919. Remaining an intense Atlantic hurricane throughout much of its existence, the storm's slow-movement and sheer size prolonged and enlarged the scope of the hurricane's effects, making it one of the deadliest hurricanes in United States history. Impacts were largely concentrated around the Florida Keys and South Texas areas, though lesser but nonetheless significant effects were felt in Cuba and other areas of the United States Gulf Coast.

Tropical cyclone Rapidly rotating storm system

A tropical cyclone is a rapidly rotating storm system characterized by a low-pressure center, a closed low-level atmospheric circulation, strong winds, and a spiral arrangement of thunderstorms that produce heavy rain. Depending on its location and strength, a tropical cyclone is referred to by different names, including hurricane, typhoon, tropical storm, cyclonic storm, tropical depression, and simply cyclone. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, and a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean; while in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

Atlantic hurricane tropical cyclone that forms in the North Atlantic Ocean

An Atlantic hurricane or tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that forms in the Atlantic Ocean, usually between the months of June and November. A hurricane differs from a cyclone or typhoon only on the basis of location. A hurricane is a storm that occurs in the Atlantic Ocean and northeastern Pacific Ocean, a typhoon occurs in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, and a cyclone occurs in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean.

Contents

The hurricane developed near the Leeward Islands as a tropical depression on September 2 and gradually gained in strength as it tracked on a generally west-northwesterly path, crossing the Mona Passage and moving across the Bahamas. On September 7, the storm reached hurricane intensity over the eastern Bahamas. On September 9–10, the storm made its eponymous pass of the Florida Keys, passing over the Dry Tortugas with an intensity equivalent to that of a modern-day Category 4 hurricane. Over the next several days, the intense cyclone traversed the Gulf of Mexico, fluctuating in strength before making landfall near Texas' Baffin Bay on September 14 as a large Category 3 hurricane. As it tracked further inland, land interaction caused the storm to gradually weaken; the storm was last noted on September 16 over West Texas.

Leeward Islands group of islands in the West Indies

The Leeward Islands are a group of islands situated where the northeastern Caribbean Sea meets the western Atlantic Ocean. Starting with the Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico, they extend southeast to Guadeloupe and its dependencies. In English, the term Leeward Islands refers to the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles chain. The more southerly part of this chain, starting with Dominica, is called the Windward Islands. Dominica was originally considered part of the Leeward Islands, but was transferred from the British Leeward Islands to the British Windward Islands in 1940.

Mona Passage strait

The Mona Passage is a strait that separates the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. The Mona Passage connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, and is an important shipping route between the Atlantic and the Panama Canal.

Florida Keys coral cay archipelago in Florida, United States of America

The Florida Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida, forming the southernmost portion of the continental United States. They begin at the southeastern coast of the Florida peninsula, about 15 miles (24 km) south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas. The islands lie along the Florida Straits, dividing the Atlantic Ocean to the east from the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and defining one edge of Florida Bay. At the nearest point, the southern part of Key West is just 90 miles (140 km) from Cuba. The Florida Keys are between about 23.5 and 25.5 degrees North latitude.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale 1919 Florida Keys hurricane track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

Based on isolated observations east of the Lesser Antilles on September 1, the precursor to the 1919 Florida Keys hurricane may have been a disorganized tropical wave that tracked westward towards the Leeward Islands. [2] The next day, additional observations indicated that the disturbance had acquired a cyclonic circulation; thus, the system was determined to have become a tropical depression by 12:00  UTC that day just east of Guadeloupe. Gradual strengthening occurred as the depression tracked west-northwest, attaining tropical storm intensity at 06:00 UTC on September 3. [3] Twelve hours later, the tropical cyclone clipped the extreme-southwestern portion of Puerto Rico with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 km/h). [3] [4] The cyclone maintained a low-end tropical storm intensity as it paralleled the northern coast of Hispaniola the following day. On September 6, the storm abruptly turned towards the north in the direction of the Turks and Caicos before resuming a more westerly trajectory a day later. [4]

Lesser Antilles Archipelago in the Southeast Caribbean

The Lesser Antilles is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. Most form a long, partly volcanic island arc between the Greater Antilles to the north-west and the continent of South America. The islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. Together, the Lesser Antilles and the Greater Antilles compose the Antilles. When combined with the Lucayan Archipelago, all three are known as the West Indies.

Tropical wave type of atmospheric trough

Tropical waves, easterly waves, or tropical easterly waves, also known as African easterly waves in the Atlantic region, are a type of atmospheric trough, an elongated area of relatively low air pressure, oriented north to south, which moves from east to west across the tropics, causing areas of cloudiness and thunderstorms. West-moving waves can also form from the tail end of frontal zones in the subtropics and tropics, and may be referred to as easterly waves, but these waves are not properly called tropical waves; they are a form of inverted trough sharing many characteristics with fully tropical waves. All tropical waves form in the easterly flow along the equatorward side of the subtropical ridge or belt of high pressure which lies north and south of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Tropical waves are generally carried westward by the prevailing easterly winds along the tropics and subtropics near the equator. They can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic and northeastern Pacific basins. A tropical wave study is aided by Hovmöller diagrams, a graph of meteorological data.

Cyclonic rotation or circulation is movement in the same direction as the Earth's rotation, as opposed to anticyclonic rotation. The Coriolis effect causes cyclonic rotation to be in a counterclockwise direction in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. A closed area of winds rotating cyclonically is known as a cyclone.

At 06:00 UTC on September 7, the cyclone strengthened to hurricane intensity north of Crooked Island. [3] Traversing westward across the southern extents of the Bahamas, the newly developed hurricane steadily grew in size and intensity. [2] September 7, the hurricane reached the equivalent of a Category 2 on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson scale and later reached major hurricane strength on September 8 shortly before crossing Andros Island. On September 9, the storm intensified further to Category 4 strength before passing roughly 30–40 mi (48–64 km) south of Key West, Florida in the Florida Straits. [3] [4] At 07:00 UTC on September 10, the hurricane made landfall on the Dry Tortugas at peak intensity with winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) extending as far as 17 mi (28 km) outwards from the center and a low barometric pressure of 927  mbar (hPa; 27.37  inHg) based on a barometer observation in the eye of the storm. [2] [4] At the time, this made the tropical cyclone the second strongest to strike the United States since 1851, only behind the 1886 Indianola hurricane. [5] After landfall, the storm slowly moved westward into the Gulf of Mexico. [3]

Crooked Island, Bahamas Island and district in Bahamas

Crooked Island is an island and district, part of a group of Bahamian islands defining a large, shallow lagoon called the Bight of Acklins, of which the largest are Crooked Island in the north and Acklins in the south-east, and the smaller are Long Cay in the north-west, and Castle Island in the south.

Dry Tortugas small group of islands, located in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the Florida Keys

The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands, located in the Gulf of Mexico at the end of the Florida Keys, United States, about 67 miles (108 km) west of Key West, and 37 miles (60 km) west of the Marquesas Keys, the closest islands. Still farther west is the Tortugas Bank, which is submerged. The first Europeans to discover the islands were the Spanish in 1513, led by explorer Juan Ponce de León. The archipelago's name derives from the lack of fresh water springs, and the presence of turtles. They are an unincorporated area of Monroe County, Florida, and belong to the Lower Keys Census County Division. With their surrounding waters, they constitute the Dry Tortugas National Park.

Radius of maximum wind

The radius of maximum wind (RMW) is the distance between the center of a cyclone and its band of strongest winds. It is a parameter in atmospheric dynamics and tropical cyclone forecasting. The highest rainfall rates occur near the RMW of tropical cyclones. The extent of a cyclone's storm surge and its maximum potential intensity can be determined using the RMW. As maximum sustained winds increase, the RMW decreases. Recently, RMW has been used in descriptions of tornadoes. When designing buildings to prevent against failure from atmospheric pressure change, RMW can be used in the calculations.

From September 10 to September 14, the tropical cyclone traversed the Gulf of Mexico, maintaining a powerful intensity. On September 12, the hurricane briefly weakened to Category 3 intensity before restrengthening shortly thereafter. The following day, the storm reached a secondary peak intensity with winds of 145 mph (235 km/h) and a minimum pressure of 931 mbar (hPa; 27.50 inHg) over the western Gulf of Mexico before weakening precipitously afterwards. [3] At 21:00 UTC on September 14, the hurricane made its final landfall near Baffin Bay as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) and a central pressure of 950 mbar (hPa; 28.06 inHg). Upon moving ashore, the storm was unusually large; its radius of maximum winds measured 40 mi (65 km) compared to the average of 21 mi (33 km) for storms of similar intensities. [2] As the hurricane tracked further inland, land interaction weakened the cyclone, with winds dropping below hurricane-force on September 15 and then below tropical storm-force the next day. By 18:00 UTC on September 16 the tropical cyclone had dissipated over West Texas near the border between Texas and Mexico. [3]

Baffin Bay (Texas) bay in South Texas

Baffin Bay is a bay in South Texas, an inlet of the larger Laguna Madre. Located near the Gulf of Mexico, Baffin Bay forms part of the boundary between Kenedy County and Kleberg County.

West Texas Region in Texas, United States

West Texas is a loosely defined part of the U.S. state of Texas, generally encompassing the arid and semiarid lands west of a line drawn between the cities of Wichita Falls, Abilene, and Del Rio.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Preparations

Due to the lack of hurricane observations at sea, the first tropical cyclone warning prompted by the United States Weather Bureau was a storm warning on September 8 issued for areas along the Florida coast from Jupiter on the east coast to Fort Myers on the peninsula's west coast with the storm already a major hurricane over the Bahamas. The first hurricane warning was issued the next day for coastal areas from Jupiter to Key West, with all vessels requested to avoid the Florida Straits and the waters off Florida's Atlantic coast. In addition, the storm's projected path into the Gulf of Mexico prompted the bureau to also direct the clearance of ships in the hurricane's trajectory. [4] In Miami, Florida, the city's power plant cut off its electrical output as a precautionary measure, forcing an intentional power outage in the city. [6] On the 10th at 10:30 p.m., northeast storm warnings were issued from Carrabelle, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana. On the 11th at 4 p.m., the storm warnings for the northeast Gulf coast were changed to hurricane warnings, and extended westward along the length of the Louisiana coast. At 9 p.m., northwest storm warnings were issued for the northwest Gulf coast from Port Arthur to Velasco, Texas. At 4 p.m. on the 12th, storm warnings were in effect from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida, with hurricane warnings in effect along the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. On the evening of the 13th, northwest storm warnings were in effect for the entire Texas coast. [7]

National Weather Service United States weather agency

The National Weather Service (NWS) is an agency of the United States federal government that is tasked with providing weather forecasts, warnings of hazardous weather, and other weather-related products to organizations and the public for the purposes of protection, safety, and general information. It is a part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) branch of the Department of Commerce, and is headquartered in Silver Spring, Maryland, within the Washington metropolitan area. The agency was known as the United States Weather Bureau from 1890 until it adopted its current name in 1970.

Jupiter, Florida Town in Florida, United States

Jupiter is the northernmost town in Palm Beach County, Florida, United States. According to a 2017 Census Bureau estimate, the town had a population of 64,976. It is 87 miles north of Miami, and the northernmost community in the Miami metropolitan area, home to 6,012,331 people in a 2015 Census Bureau estimate. Jupiter was rated as the 12th Best Beach Town in America by WalletHub in 2018, and as the 9th Happiest Seaside Town in America by Coastal Living in 2012.

Fort Myers, Florida City in Florida, United States

Fort Myers or Ft. Myers, is the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida, United States. It has grown rapidly in recent years. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 62,298 and in 2017 was estimated at 79,943.

Impact

The Bahamas and Cuba

Deadliest United States hurricanes
RankHurricaneSeasonFatalities
1 "Galveston" 1900 8,000–12,000
2 "San Ciriaco" 1899 3,400
3 Maria 2017 2,982*
4 "Okeechobee" 1928 2,823
5 "Cheniere Caminada" 1893 2,000
6 Katrina 2005 1,200
7 "Sea Islands" 1893 1,000–2,000
8 "Indianola" 1875 771
9 "Florida Keys" 1919 745
10 "Georgia" 1881 700
Reference: Deadliest US hurricanes [8] [9]
La Casa de Beneficencia y Maternidad de La Habana during the hurricane of 1919 with the statute of Antonio Maceo above the water. La Casa de Beneficencia y Maternidad de La Habana 1919.jpg
La Casa de Beneficencia y Maternidad de La Habana during the hurricane of 1919 with the statute of Antonio Maceo above the water.

While passing through the Bahamas on September 8, the Ward Line steamer Corydon struck land and later sank during the storm. The ship was not found until September 11, at which time it was discovered that 27 people on board had drowned while nine others managed to survive after swimming to shore. [10] On the islands, strong winds produced by the hurricane destroyed numerous homes and sank several schooners, leaving many homeless. [11] In the Florida Strait, a Cuban vessel carrying 45 people was stranded during the storm. However, another ship in the area managed to reach the Cuban vessel and rescue all passengers. [12]

Although the hurricane never made landfall on Cuba, the storm's close proximity to the northern stretches of the island led to considerable impacts. A strong storm surge combined with wind-swept waves topped the Havana seawall, flooding areas of the city as far as six blocks inland and prompting the evacuation of homes at risk. The inundation also disabled some of Havana's tram systems and halted automotive traffic. [13]

United States

A tornado, spawned by the hurricane, struck Goulds, Florida on September 10, moving inland from Biscayne Bay. It caused US$25,000 (1919 dollars) in damage. [14] Of the approximately 600-900 people officially reported killed in the storm, roughly 500 of them were aboard ten ships lost at sea. [15] Communication was cut off for the entirety of Florida south of Miami following the storm's passage. [16] By comparison, South Florida outside the Florida Keys remained relatively unscathed. Winds in Tampa only reached 26 mph (42 km/h) as the hurricane passed to the city's south. [13] Despite otherwise minor damage in Miami, 17  houseboats and small craft sunk in Biscayne Bay as a result of rough seas. [17] Damage and casualties on the Texas coast were also severe, in part due to false rumors that the storm had turned north into Louisiana, which warranted taking storm warnings in Corpus Christi down the day before landfall. [15] Though warnings were posted again early the following day, the citizens were ill-prepared when the hurricane made landfall south of the city as a major hurricane; the storm surge was as high as 16 feet (4.9 m).

This large storm spread winds of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) across Miami, Florida, Burrwood, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas. A total of 1500 cattle were driven off of Padre Island into Laguna Madre. Heavy rains were common across southern Texas, with numerous locations recording 6 inches (150 mm) to 12 inches (300 mm) of rainfall within 24 hours, which set daily rainfall records. Storm surge and abnormally high tides resulted in extensive damage. About 23 blocks of homes were destroyed or washed away in Corpus Christi. A total of 284 bodies were recovered in the city and damage totaled at least $20 million. In Matagorda, Palacios, and Port Lavaca, wharves, fish houses, and small boats were significantly impacted. The docks and buildings in Port Aransas were swept away, while school building remained standing. [18] Houses and crops were also flattened in Victoria. At least 310 deaths were reported in Texas, [19] but there may have been as many as 600 fatalities. [15] The steamer Valbanera was found sunk between Key West and the Dry Tortugas with 488 aboard whom were all drowned. [20]

Aftermath

The storm surge caused by this hurricane prompted the city of Corpus Christi to construct a breakwater in 1925, and a seawall was subsequently built in 1940. [21] Robert Simpson, a storm survivor who was 6 years old at the time, related his experience in an interview in 1989. Simpson, citing inspiration from this hurricane, pursued a career in meteorology and later served as the first director of the National Hurricane Research Project and as a director of the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Additionally, he co-developed and published the Saffir–Simpson scale with Herbert Saffir in 1973, a hurricane intensity scale implemented by the NHC in 1974. [22]

See also

Notes

  1. All monetary values in 1919  United States dollars unless otherwise noted.

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The 1933 Cuba–Brownsville hurricane was one of two storms in the 1933 Atlantic hurricane season to reach Category 5 intensity on the Saffir–Simpson scale. It formed on August 22 off the west coast of Africa, and for much of its duration it maintained a west-northwest track. The system intensified into a tropical storm on August 26 and into a hurricane on August 28. Passing north of the Lesser Antilles, the hurricane rapidly intensified as it approached the Turks and Caicos islands. It reached Category 5 status and its peak winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) on August 31. Subsequently, it weakened before striking northern Cuba on September 1 with winds of 120 mph (190 km/h). In the country, the hurricane left about 100,000 people homeless and killed over 70 people. Damage was heaviest near the storm's path, and the strong winds destroyed houses and left areas without power. Damage was estimated at $11 million.

1920 Louisiana hurricane Category 2 Atlantic hurricane in 1920

The 1920 Louisiana hurricane was a strong tropical cyclone that caused significant damage in parts of Louisiana in September 1920. The second tropical storm and hurricane of the annual hurricane season, it formed from an area of disturbed weather on September 16, 1920, northwest of Colombia. The system remained a weak tropical depression as it made landfall on Nicaragua, but later intensified to tropical storm strength as it moved across the Gulf of Honduras, prior to making a second landfall on the Yucatán Peninsula. Once in the Gulf of Mexico, the storm quickly intensified as it moved towards the north-northwest, reaching its peak intensity as a Category 2 hurricane with winds of 100 mph (160 km/h) prior to making landfall near Houma, Louisiana with no change in intensity. Afterwards, it quickly weakened over land, before dissipating on September 23 over eastern Kansas.

References

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