Hurricane Frederic

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Hurricane Frederic
Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Frederic September 12 1979 1645Z.png
Hurricane Frederic at 16:45 UTC on September 12
FormedAugust 29, 1979 (August 29, 1979)
DissipatedSeptember 15, 1979 (September 15, 1979)
( Extratropical after September 14)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:130 mph (215 km/h)
Lowest pressure943 mbar (hPa); 27.85 inHg
Fatalities12 total
Damage$1.77 billion (1979 USD)
Areas affected
Part of the 1979 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Frederic was an intense and damaging tropical cyclone that carved a path of damage from the Lesser Antilles to Quebec, in particular devastating areas of the United States Gulf Coast. Though only five were killed directly, the US$1.77 billion (equivalent to $4.8 billion in 2016) in damage accrued by Frederic made it the Atlantic basin's costliest tropical cyclone on record at the time. Prior to its final landfall, the threat that Frederic imposed on areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast triggered a mass exodus from the region larger than any other evacuation in the past. While the storm primarily impacted the U.S. states of Mississippi and Alabama, lesser effects were felt throughout the Greater and Lesser Antilles, as well as inland North America.

Tropical cyclone Is a 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; in the south Pacific or Indian Ocean, comparable storms are referred to simply as "tropical cyclones" or "severe cyclonic storms".

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.

Quebec Province of Canada

Quebec is one of the thirteen provinces and territories of Canada. It is bordered to the west by the province of Ontario and the bodies of water James Bay and Hudson Bay; to the north by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay; to the east by the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador; and to the south by the province of New Brunswick and the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. It also shares maritime borders with Nunavut, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Quebec is Canada's largest province by area and its second-largest administrative division; only the territory of Nunavut is larger. It is historically and politically considered to be part of Central Canada.


Frederic developed from a tropical depression south of the Cape Verde Islands on August 28, 1979. [nb 1] Tracking at a steady clip westward, the primitive cyclone reached tropical storm intensity the next day. Favorable conditions in the open Atlantic allowed for Frederic to reach hurricane intensity on September 1. However, outflow from nearby Hurricane David began to inhibit further intensification and would continue to do so for roughly a week, weakening Frederic as it tracked across the Greater Antilles. The tropical cyclone nearly dissipated over Cuba before redeveloping on September 9 near the Isle of Youth. From then on, Frederic moved northwestward, intensifying to its peak intensity in the Gulf of Mexico with winds of 130 mph (210 km/h) on September 12, shortly before making landfall at Dauphin Island, Alabama just below the state line between Alabama and Mississippi. Over the United States, Frederic weakened for a final time before becoming extratropical in Pennsylvania on September 14 and dissipating the next day.

Outflow (meteorology) air that flows outwards from a storm system

Outflow, in meteorology, is air that flows outwards from a storm system. It is associated with ridging, or anticyclonic flow. In the low levels of the troposphere, outflow radiates from thunderstorms in the form of a wedge of rain-cooled air, which is visible as a thin rope-like cloud on weather satellite imagery or a fine line on weather radar imagery. Low-level outflow boundaries can disrupt the center of small tropical cyclones. However, outflow aloft is essential for the strengthening of a tropical cyclone. If this outflow is undercut, the tropical cyclone weakens. If two tropical cyclones are in proximity, the upper level outflow from the system to the west can limit the development of the system to the east.

Hurricane David Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 1979

Hurricane David was an extremely deadly hurricane which caused massive devastation and loss of life in the Dominican Republic in August 1979. A Cape Verde hurricane that reached Category 5 hurricane status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, David was the fourth named tropical cyclone, second hurricane, and first major hurricane of the 1979 Atlantic hurricane season, traversing through the Leeward Islands, Greater Antilles, and East Coast of the United States during late August and early September. David was the first hurricane to affect the Lesser Antilles since Hurricane Inez in 1966. With winds of 175 mph (280 km/h), David was the only storm of Category 5 intensity to make landfall on the Dominican Republic and the deadliest since the 1930 Dominican Republic Hurricane, San Zenon, killing over 2,000 people in its path. In addition, until Hurricane Maria in 2017, David was the deadliest Dominican tropical cyclone since the 1834 Padre Ruíz hurricane, which killed over 200 people.

Cuba Country in the Caribbean

Cuba, officially the Republic of Cuba, is a country comprising the island of Cuba as well as Isla de la Juventud and several minor archipelagos. Cuba is located in the northern Caribbean where the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean meet. It is east of the Yucatán Peninsula (Mexico), south of both the U.S. state of Florida and the Bahamas, west of Haiti and north of both Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Havana is the largest city and capital; other major cities include Santiago de Cuba and Camagüey. The area of the Republic of Cuba is 110,860 square kilometres (42,800 sq mi). The island of Cuba is the largest island in Cuba and in the Caribbean, with an area of 105,006 square kilometres (40,543 sq mi), and the second-most populous after Hispaniola, with over 11 million inhabitants.

Damage estimates vary due to inadequate reporting of private insurance claims as well as lack of hard data on uninsured damage; Frederic is believed to have inflicted $5 million (1979 USD) in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with an additional $1.7 billion in damage on the mainland United States. FEMA, which had been established only three months before Frederic hit, was the focal point for nearly $250 million in federal aid for recovery, $188 million of which went to Alabama (1979 USD). In southern Alabama, the landscape was changed for years, with thousands of tall pine trees tilted and leaning northwest. [1]

Federal Emergency Management Agency United States disaster response agency, part of Department of Homeland Security

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is an agency of the United States Department of Homeland Security, initially created by Presidential Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1978 and implemented by two Executive Orders on April 1, 1979. The agency's primary purpose is to coordinate the response to a disaster that has occurred in the United States and that overwhelms the resources of local and state authorities. The governor of the state in which the disaster occurs must declare a state of emergency and formally request from the president that FEMA and the federal government respond to the disaster. The only exception to the state's gubernatorial declaration requirement occurs when an emergency or disaster takes place on federal property or to a federal asset—for example, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, or the Space Shuttle Columbia in the 2003 return-flight disaster.

Meteorological history

Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir-Simpson scale Frederic 1979 track.png
Map plotting the track and the intensity of the storm, according to the Saffir–Simpson scale

The precursor to Hurricane Frederic emerged as a loosely defined tropical wave off the west coast of Africa late on August 27. The following day, satellite images indicated that the tropical wave had become more defined, and was beginning to show signs of cyclonic rotation. At 0600  UTC on August 29, the National Hurricane Center  (NHC) classified the system as a tropical depression based on observational data from ships nearby in conjunction with satellite images. [2] [3] Upon developing into a tropical cyclone, the depression moved at an unusually rapid pace westward, gradually curving towards the west-northwest and slowly intensifying in ideal conditions. At 1200 UTC on August 30, [3] the tropical depression was upgraded to tropical storm status and thus named Frederic. [2] Intensification continued after the storm's upgrade, and early on September 1, Frederic developed an eye, prompting the NHC to further upgrade the tropical cyclone to hurricane status at 0600 UTC that day. [2] [3]

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.

Coordinated Universal Time Primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time

Coordinated Universal Time is the primary time standard by which the world regulates clocks and time. It is within about 1 second of mean solar time at 0° longitude, and is not adjusted for daylight saving time. In some countries where English is spoken, the term Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is often used as a synonym for UTC and predates UTC by nearly 300 years.

Frederic only maintained hurricane intensity for roughly eighteen hours over the open waters of the Atlantic on September 1 before outflow from nearby Hurricane David began to adversely affect the tropical cyclone. [2] [3] At 0000 UTC on September 2, Frederic weakened back to tropical storm strength while it was still well east of the Lesser Antilles. This weakening phase continued as Frederic began to assume a more westerly track and slow in forward motion. [2] On September 4, Frederic tracked over the Virgin Islands before making landfall on Puerto Rico later that day with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (80 km/h). [3] Frederic's interaction with Puerto Rico greatly disrupted the low-level circulation contained within the tropical cyclone, enhancing the weakening effects of Hurricane David's outflow. After passing over the island, the tropical storm briefly took a southwest course before curving into Hispaniola on September 6, inducing additional disruption within Frederic. At 1800 UTC that day, Frederic was downgraded to tropical depression status north of Haiti. [2] Frederic remained a tropical depression for two days as it tracked into and then parallel to the southern coast of Cuba beginning on September 7. [3] During this time, Hurricane David had tracked far into the Northeastern United States, and as a result its inhibiting effects of intensification ceased. [2] At 0000 UTC on September 9, [3] Frederic regained tropical storm intensity while located roughly 100 mi (160 km/h) east of the Isle of Youth. The following day, the cyclone tracked over western Cuba as it gradually curved towards the northwest. [3]

Virgin Islands Island group of the Caribbean Leeward Islands

The Virgin Islands are geologically and biogeographically the easternmost part of the Greater Antilles, the northern islands belonging to the Puerto Rican Bank and St. Croix being a displaced part of the same geologic structure. Politically, the British Virgin Islands have been governed as the western island group of the Leeward Islands, which are the northern part of the Lesser Antilles, and form the border between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The archipelago is separated from the true Lesser Antilles by the Anegada Passage and from the main island of Puerto Rico by the Virgin Passage.

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

The maximum sustained wind associated with a tropical cyclone is a common indicator of the intensity of the storm. Within a mature tropical cyclone, it is found within the eyewall at a distance defined as the radius of maximum wind, or RMW. Unlike gusts, the value of these winds are determined via their sampling and averaging the sampled results over a period of time. Wind measuring has been standardized globally to reflect the winds at 10 metres (33 ft) above the Earth's surface, and the maximum sustained wind represents the highest average wind over either a one-minute (US) or ten-minute time span, anywhere within the tropical cyclone. Surface winds are highly variable due to friction between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, as well as near hills and mountains over land.

Favorable conditions, marked by very warm sea surface temperatures as high as 86 °F (30 °C) and the presence of a large anticyclone over the system, allowed Frederic to strengthen to hurricane status for a second time while just northwest of Cuba, despite proximity to land. [2] Frederic took a northwesterly course throughout its trek across the Gulf of Mexico in early September, intensifying in a highly conducive environment. [2] By 1800 UTC on September 10, the hurricane became stronger than it had ever been over the central Atlantic. At 0000 UTC on September 12, Frederic attained major hurricane status over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and twelve hours later reached peak intensity with a minimum barometric pressure of 943  mbar (hPa; 27.85  inHg) and sustained winds of 130 mph (215 km/h), [nb 2] making the cyclone a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. [3] Moving gradually faster in the Gulf of Mexico, [2] Frederic eventually made two landfalls – one on Dauphin Island and the other near the border between Alabama and Mississippi  – with a virtually unchanged intensity. [3] [5] Tracking rapidly northward, Frederic began to weaken due to land interaction, and was downgraded to tropical storm status while it was near Meridian, Mississippi on September 13. [2] At around the same time, the cyclone began to curve northeastward, [3] eventually merging with an extratropical cyclone in southwestern Pennsylvania by 1800 UTC on September 14. These extratropical remnants proceeded to track through the Mid-Atlantic states and New England before they were last officially documented by the NHC in New Brunswick on September 15. [2] [3] However, the Canadian Hurricane Centre still considered the cyclone active up until the storm entered the Labrador Sea on September 16. [6]

Sea surface temperature Water temperature close to the oceans surface

Sea surface temperature (SST) is the water temperature close to the ocean's surface. The exact meaning of surface varies according to the measurement method used, but it is between 1 millimetre (0.04 in) and 20 metres (70 ft) below the sea surface. Air masses in the Earth's atmosphere are highly modified by sea surface temperatures within a short distance of the shore. Localized areas of heavy snow can form in bands downwind of warm water bodies within an otherwise cold air mass. Warm sea surface temperatures are known to be a cause of tropical cyclogenesis over the Earth's oceans. Tropical cyclones can also cause a cool wake, due to turbulent mixing of the upper 30 metres (100 ft) of the ocean. SST changes diurnally, like the air above it, but to a lesser degree. There is less SST variation on breezy days than on calm days. In addition, ocean currents such as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), can effect SST's on multi-decadal time scales, a major impact results from the global thermohaline circulation, which affects average SST significantly throughout most of the world's oceans.

Anticyclone opposite to a cyclone

An anticyclone is a weather phenomenon defined by the United States National Weather Service's glossary as "a large-scale circulation of winds around a central region of high atmospheric pressure, clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere, counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere". Effects of surface-based anticyclones include clearing skies as well as cooler, drier air. Fog can also form overnight within a region of higher pressure. Mid-tropospheric systems, such as the subtropical ridge, deflect tropical cyclones around their periphery and cause a temperature inversion inhibiting free convection near their center, building up surface-based haze under their base. Anticyclones aloft can form within warm core lows such as tropical cyclones, due to descending cool air from the backside of upper troughs such as polar highs, or from large scale sinking such as the subtropical ridge. The evolution of an anticyclone depends on a few variables such as its size, intensity, moist-convection, Coriolis force etc.

Gulf of Mexico An Atlantic Ocean basin extending into southern North America

The Gulf of Mexico is an ocean basin and a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean, largely surrounded by the North American continent. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. The U.S. states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida border the Gulf on the north, which are often referred to as the "Third Coast", in comparison with the U.S. Atlantic and Pacific coasts.


Evacuation out of the Mobile area Fredericevacpic.JPG
Evacuation out of the Mobile area

The first tropical cyclone watches and warnings issued in association with Frederic were on September 3, when the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning and gale warning for several islands of the Lesser Antilles stretching from Dominica to the northern Leeward Islands. [7] Residents of Charlotte Amalie in the United States Virgin Islands were urged by governor Juan Francisco Luis to move to 24 emergency shelters. [8] Luis also mobilized a company of the Virgin Islands National Guard to expedite evacuations and protect emptied residences and other buildings from looting. [9] Further south in Dominica, Melville Hall Airport was forced to close due to the presense of gale force winds, delaying relief efforts following Hurricane David. [10]

Despite having weakened to a tropical storm by the time Frederic moved over the Virgin Islands, the National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane watch for Puerto Rico on September 4. [11] As precautionary measures, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport and schools closed for the duration of the storm. [9] Hundreds of residents were ordered to evacuate from Toa Baja for the second time in just four days due to the threat of flooding rivers. [12] In Trujillo Alto, a dike was relieved in order to mitigate potential flooding. [13] After its track across Puerto Rico, gale warnings were issued for portions of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. [14] No watches or warnings were issued by the NHC for any areas while Frederic was classified as a tropical depression over the Greater Antilles. [15] However, small craft warnings were posted for some coastal regions off of Miami, Florida due to strong winds caused by the nearby tropical cyclone. [16]

After Frederic reattained hurricane status in the Gulf of Mexico on September 10, a gale warning were issued for the Dry Tortugas; this was the first NHC warning issued in association with the newly developed tropical cyclone. [3] [15] Not long after, a hurricane watch was issued for coastal areas extending from Panama City, Florida to Vermilion Bay in Louisiana. [15] Although forecasts showed that Frederic posed no threat to Sarasota, Florida, the city readied barrels of water if distribution was necessitated to Sarasota County's 58 emergency shelters. Municipality managers were asked to place their respective emergency personnel on standby. [17] In Key West, Florida, city workers had shortened workdays while the storm moved close by. [18]

Up to 500,000 were evacuated from the U.S. Gulf Coast in anticipation of Frederic's arrival.[ citation needed ]


Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico

Effects from Frederic were first felt on the outward facing Leeward Islands. In Antigua, the threat of widespread power outages forced the insular government to shut down power. [19] [11] A peak gust of 62 mph (100 km/h) was documented on the island as a result of the storm. [2] These strong winds also unroofed some buildings. [9] Strong winds and rain were felt in Guadeloupe, Barbuda, and a number of other islands, but no damaging effects from the passing tropical cyclone occurred in those locations. [19] Power outages knocked out electricity to half of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and downed telephone lines. Rainfall and downed trees blocked several roads. [20] Offshore, the yacht Princess blew out into sea, prompting a coast guard rescue of the ship and its crew. [9]

As a tropical storm, [3] Frederic dropped heavy rain across the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Despite having weakened from its prior hurricane intensity, the storm still brought gale-force winds coupled with gusts as strong as 70 mph (110 km/h) to the area. [2] Three apartments in the same apartment complex on St. Thomas were unroofed, displacing roughly 50 families. [21] Electricity was deliberately cut during the late night hours to prevent the spread of power outages. [13] In St. Maarten, these strong winds toppled a radio antenna. [8] The entirety of the U.S. Virgin Islands reported numerous felled trees and downed utility lines as a result of the strong winds. Wind damage on nearby Puerto Rico was of only minor extent and much less severe than in the Virgin Islands. [21] However, torrential precipitation accounted for most of the damage, as the passage of Hurricane David less than a week earlier saturated soils, priming the area for floods induced by the passage of Frederic. Rainfall peaked at around 10 in (250 mm) in 12 hours in Puerto Rico and 24.04 in (611 mm) in 30 hours in St. Croix. [2] [22]

Rainfall totals in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands Frederic 1979 Puerto Rico rainfall.gif
Rainfall totals in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

All rivers in southeastern Puerto Rico swelled and produce significant flooding in adjacent floodplains. The discharge of the Rio Santiago near Naguabo reached 100-year levels. These floods partially inundated several cities, submerged crops, and damaged numerous roads. Major arterial roads to and from Ponce were blocked by floodwater and landslide debris. Some portions of Puerto Rico Highway 3 were submerged by water from both the torrential rain and wave action. Damage from Frederic in Puerto Rico reached at least US$5 million, though western Puerto Rico sustained minimal damage from the storm. In St. Thomas, four small homes were destroyed by flooding, and an additional fifty sustained at least partial damage. One waterspout was reported off the coast, but did no damage. Normally dry coastal guts in St. Croix filled with floodwater from Frederic, damaging homes and other buildings in five communities on St. Croix. Culverts, bridges, and heavy beach erosion resulted from rough surf off the coast of the island. The floods generated various sewage problems. [21] Flowing floodwaters washed away plentiful food crops in St. Maarten. [9] Some homes were damaged and others destroyed on the adjacent Sint Maarten. [12] Off of the island, seven people were killed after their fishing boat sank during the storm. [2] Damage in Virgin Islands also reached at least US$5 million, similar to Puerto Rico. [21]

Hispaniola and Cuba

Heavy rains buffeted the islands of Hispaniola and Cuba for several days as Frederic, albeit disorganized, [23] tracked over the Greater Antilles. As with Puerto Rico and the Lesser Antilles, precipitation damage was exacerbated by the recent passage of Hurricane David. In Guantánamo on Cuba's eastern Atlantic coast, at least 6.88 in (175 mm) of rainfall was reported. Frederic continued to produce strong winds even as a weak tropical depression south of Cuba, as sustained winds of 46 mph (74 km/h) were clocked in Santa Cruz del Sur on September 7. However, damage from Frederic in Hispaniola and eastern Cuba remained minimal. [2]

Frederic's landfall on western Cuba as a redeveloped tropical cyclone was much more significant than its first Cuban landfall. Sustained winds peaked at 52 mph (84 km/h) in Bahía Honda, Cuba on September 10. [2] Despite recent renovations at José Martí International Airport, the lack of a proper drainage system allowed rainfall to inundate the airport, stranding several heads of state that were scheduled to hold a summit and disrupting air traffic to and from the airport for an entire week. [24] Heavy precipitation triggered numerous landslides, causing severe damage to infrastructure and over 250 dwellings. Areas at risk for additional landslide activity were declared inhospitable, resulting in the evacuation of 1,200 people. [25] Rainfall estimates in Cuba peaked at 5 in (125 mm). [26] A lack of damage reports was evident from western Cuba following Frederic's landfall, though damage estimates were high. [2]

United States

The Dauphin Island Bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Frederic, making it only reachable by boat. Fredericbrpic.JPG
The Dauphin Island Bridge was destroyed by Hurricane Frederic, making it only reachable by boat.

Storm surge damage was reported along 80 miles of coastline from Mississippi to Florida, with tides 8 to 12 feet (2.4-3.7 m) above the normal level being observed. Five deaths were directly attributed to Frederic in the United States, four of which occurred inland: a person swept from a boat near Pensacola was the only casualty along the coast. [2] In total, Frederic was responsible for $1.7 billion in damages. [27] This made Frederic the costliest hurricane in the history of the United States at the time; the figure was not surpassed until Hurricane Alicia in 1983. [28] Frederic also dumped heavy rainfall across much of the eastern United States. Over a dozen tornadoes were also reported in Frederic's wake. However, these had minimal impact. [29]


As Frederic was strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico, strong winds were reported in the Florida Keys. A station on the Dry Tortugas recorded a 58 mph (93 km/h) wind gust on September 10; this was stronger than any other Florida wind gust measurement in association with Frederic. A station in Key West, Florida clocked at 43 mph (69 km/h) wind gust, coupled with sustained winds of 29 mph (47 km/h). [2] Tides in the Dry Tortugas peaked at 15 ft (4.6 m), roughly 12 ft (3.7 m) above normal. [17] [30] Rainfall from the extremities of the hurricane reached South Florida, [31] with some rainfall totals exceeding 7 in (180 mm). [22]


Frederic made landfall at Dauphin Island, Alabama and continued across to a point on the Alabama/Mississippi state line near Bayou La Batre, Alabama. [32] Near-total property damage occurred along the Alabama coastline between Fort Morgan and Gulf Shores, the latter seeing 80% of its buildings completely destroyed. The causeway linking Dauphin Island to the mainland was swept away in many areas. [28] Alabama's second-largest city, Mobile, Alabama suffered extensive damage as well. Wind damage was also severe, especially across southern Alabama. Hurricane-force gusts were felt as far inland as Choctaw County. Structural failure was widespread in the immediate landfall area with industrial, residential and governmental buildings as well as hospitals suffering heavy damage. Nearly 90% of the Mobile area lost electricity, and the historic City Hall experienced heavy roof damage. Many small beach houses were completely destroyed by high winds before the storm surge could add any effects. [28] [33] Tree damage with broken limbs was extensive, leaving thousands of tall pine trees all tilted, leaning in the direction of the wind. [1] 11 Alabama counties were declared disaster areas.


About 8 to 12 inches (200 to 300 mm) of rain fell in Jackson County, Mississippi around Biloxi and Pascagoula. 16 Mississippi counties were declared disaster areas; the most in the United States. Hurricane force winds were felt as far northward as Meridian, Mississippi. [34]


Frederic dropped heavy rain across Canada as an extratropical storm, peaking at 137 mm (5.39 in) near Ottawa, Ontario. Record precipitation was recorded at the J. S. Marshall Radar Observatory in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, which documented 77 mm (3.03 in) of rain on September 15. Rainfall spread as far northeast as the eastern coast of Labrador. Flooding occurred in eastern Ontario and portions of the Niagara Peninsula, as noted in Cornwall. In Toronto, the rains led to a seven-car traffic collision and a separate car accident that injured two. Flooding also took place in southern Quebec, with floodwater submerging streets, basements, and underground parking lots in Montreal. Damage from southern Quebec reached C$8.238 million (US$7.095 million). [6]


Damage after Hurricane Frederic in Gulf Shores, Alabama Fred1979aftmth.JPG
Damage after Hurricane Frederic in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Eleven counties in Alabama, 16 in Mississippi, and five in Florida were declared eligible for disaster aid.

In retrospect, Frederic has been credited with spurring redevelopment in Mobile and the surrounding Gulf Coast region. For example, in testimony before Congress in 1992, Robert Sheets (then the director of the National Hurricane Center), described the economic aftermath of Frederic:

Prior to Hurricane Frederic, there was one condominium complex on Gulf Shores, Alabama. Most of the homes were single, individual homes built behind the sand dunes. Today, where there used to be one condominium, there are now at least 104 complexes – not units, complexes – on Gulf Shores, Alabama.


Because of extensive destruction, the name Frederic was retired, and will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced with Fabian in the 1985 season

Hurricanes David and Frederic were the first male hurricane names to be retired, as the practice of alternating male and female hurricane names was introduced in the 1979 season.

See also


  1. For consistency, Coordinated Universal Time  (UTC) is used for all references of time as the cyclone existed in multiple time zones throughout its existence.
  2. A major hurricane is a storm that ranks as Category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale. [4]

Related Research Articles

1975 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

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1978 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

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1979 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1979 Atlantic hurricane season was the first season to include both male and female names, as well as the common six-year rotating lists of tropical cyclone names. The season officially began on June 1, and lasted until November 30. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. It was slightly below average, with nine systems reaching tropical storm intensity. The first system, an unnumbered tropical depression, developed north of Puerto Rico on June 9. Two days later, Tropical Depression One formed and produced severe flooding in Jamaica, with 40 deaths and about $27 million (1979 USD) in damage. Tropical Storm Ana caused minimal impact in the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane Bob spawned tornadoes and produced minor wind damage along the Gulf Coast of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, while the remnants caused flooding, especially in Indiana. Tropical Storm Claudette caused extensive flooding, due to torrential rainfall. There were two deaths and damaged totaled $750 million.

Hurricane Carmen Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1974

Hurricane Carmen was the most intense tropical cyclone of the 1974 Atlantic hurricane season. A destructive and widespread storm, Carmen originated as a tropical disturbance that emerged from Africa toward the end of August. The disturbance traveled westward, spawning a tropical depression east of the Lesser Antilles on August 29. The storm moved through the Caribbean Sea, and in an environment conducive to intensification, it quickly strengthened to its initial peak intensity as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. Carmen moved ashore on the Yucatán Peninsula, where, despite striking a sparsely populated region, it caused significant crop damage and killed several people. Before the storm's arrival, officials had set up several evacuation centers, and many residents had moved to higher ground.

1953 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1953 Atlantic hurricane season was the first time an organized list of female names was used to name Atlantic storms. It officially began on June 15, and lasted until November 15, although activity occurred both before and after the season's limits. The season was active with fourteen total storms, six of which developed into hurricanes; four of the hurricanes attained major hurricane status, or a Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

1949 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1949 Atlantic hurricane season was the last season that tropical cyclones were not publicly labeled by the United States Weather Bureau. It officially began on June 15, and lasted until November 15. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. The first storm, Hurricane One, developed north of the Lesser Antilles on August 21. The final system, Tropical Storm Sixteen, dissipated in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on November 5. It was a fairly active season, featuring 16 tropical storms and seven hurricanes. Two of these strengthened into major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale.

1928 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1928 Atlantic hurricane season featured the Okeechobee hurricane, which was second deadliest tropical cyclone in the history of the United States. Only eight tropical cyclones developed during the season. Of these eight tropical systems, seven of them intensified into a tropical storm and four further strengthened into hurricanes. One hurricane deepened into a major hurricane, which is Category 3 or higher on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. The first system, the Fort Pierce hurricane, developed near the Lesser Antilles on August 3. The storm crossed the Bahamas and made landfall in Florida. Two fatalities and approximately $235,000 in damage was reported. A few days after the first storm developed, the Haiti hurricane, formed near the southern Windward Islands on August 7. The storm went on to strike Haiti, Cuba, and Florida. This storm left about $2 million in damage and at least 210 deaths. Impacts from the third system are unknown.

1919 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1919 Atlantic hurricane season was among the least active hurricane seasons in the Atlantic on record, featuring only five tropical storms. Of those five tropical cyclones, two of them intensified into a hurricane, with one strengthening into a major hurricane Two tropical depressions developed in the month of June, both of which caused negligible damage. A tropical storm in July brought minor damage to Pensacola, Florida, but devastated a fleet of ships. Another two tropical depressions formed in August, the first of which brought rainfall to the Lesser Antilles.

1916 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1916 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1916. The season is one of only two hurricane seasons where two major hurricanes were reported before the month of August, the other being the 2005 season.

1910 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1910 Atlantic hurricane season was the period during the summer and fall of 1910 in which tropical cyclones formed in the North Atlantic Ocean. The season was fairly inactive, with only five storms; however, three grew into hurricanes and one became a major hurricane. The season got off to a late start with the formation of a tropical storm in the Caribbean Sea on August 23. September saw two storms, and the final tropical cyclone—Hurricane Five—existed during October. All but one of the storms made landfall, and the only cyclone which remained at sea had some effects on the island of Bermuda.

1899 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1899 Atlantic hurricane season featured the longest-lasting tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin on record. There were nine tropical storms, of which five became hurricanes. Two of those strengthened into major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or higher on the modern day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. The first system was initially observed in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico on June 26. The tenth and final system dissipated near Bermuda on November 10. These dates fall within the period with the most tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic. In post-season analysis, two tropical cyclones that existed in October were added to HURDAT – the official Atlantic hurricane database. At one point during the season, September 3 through the following day, a set of three tropical cyclones existed simultaneously.

1895 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1895 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1895. The season was a fairly inactive one, with 6 storms forming, only 2 of which became hurricanes.

1889 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1889 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1889. In the 1889 Atlantic season there were nine tropical storms and six hurricanes. However, due to scarce technology and the fact that only storms that affected populated land or ships were recorded, the actual total could be higher.

The decade of the 1810s featured the 1810–19 Atlantic hurricane seasons. While data is not available for every storm that occurred, some parts of the coastline were populated enough to give data of hurricane occurrences. Each season was an ongoing event in the annual cycle of tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic basin. Most tropical cyclone formation occurs between June 1 and November 30.

The decade of the 1800s featured the 1800–09 Atlantic hurricane seasons. While data is not available for every storm that occurred, some parts of the coastline were populated enough to give data of hurricane occurrences. Each season was an ongoing event in the annual cycle of tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic basin. Most tropical cyclone formation occurs between June 1 and November 30.

1917 Nueva Gerona hurricane Category 4 Atlantic hurricane in 1917

The 1917 Nueva Gerona hurricane was the most intense tropical cyclone to strike the Florida Panhandle until Hurricane Opal in 1995. The eighth tropical cyclone and fourth tropical storm of the season, this system was identified as a tropical storm east of the Lesser Antilles on September 20. After crossing the Lesser Antilles, the system entered the Caribbean Sea and achieved hurricane intensity on September 21. After becoming a Category 2 hurricane, the storm struck the northern coast of Jamaica on September 23. Early on September 25, the cyclone reached Category 4 status and attained maximum sustained winds of 150 mph (240 km/h) soon thereafter. Later that day, the hurricane made landfall in eastern Pinar del Río Province, Cuba. The system entered the Gulf of Mexico shortly thereafter and weakened slightly. Recurving to the northeast, the hurricane briefly threatened Louisiana before turning toward Florida. Early on September 29, the hurricane made landfall near Fort Walton Beach, Florida, with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). Once over land, the cyclone rapidly weakened and transitioned into an extratropical cyclone before dissipating on September 30.

1851 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1851 Atlantic hurricane season was the first Atlantic hurricane season to be included in the official Atlantic tropical cyclone record. Six known tropical cyclones occurred during the season, the earliest of which formed on June 25 and the latest of which dissipated on October 19. These dates fall within the range of most Atlantic tropical cyclone activity. None of the cyclones existed simultaneously with another. Of the six storms, two only have a single point in their track known.

1852 Atlantic hurricane season hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean

The 1852 Atlantic hurricane season was one of only three Atlantic hurricane seasons in which every known tropical cyclone attained hurricane status. Five tropical cyclones were reported during the season, which lasted from late August through the middle of October; these dates fall within the range of most Atlantic tropical cyclone activity, and none of the cyclones coexisted with another. Though there were officially five tropical cyclones in the season, hurricane scholar Michael Chenoweth assessed two of the cyclones as being the same storm. There may have been other unconfirmed tropical cyclones during the season, as meteorologist Christopher Landsea estimated that up to six storms were missed each year from the official database; this estimate was due to small tropical cyclone size, sparse ship reports, and relatively unpopulated coastlines.

Hurricane Baker (1950) Category 3 Atlantic hurricane in 1950

Hurricane Baker was a Category 2 hurricane that affected the Leeward Islands, Greater Antilles, and the Gulf Coast of the United States. The tropical cyclone was the second tropical storm and second hurricane of the 1950 Atlantic hurricane season. Originating as a tropical depression east of the Windward Islands on August 18, Baker became a tropical storm on August 19, and further intensified into a hurricane on August 21. It attained an initial peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph (155 km/h) on August 22 before weakening to a tropical storm as it made landfall on the island of Antigua. Baker weakened to a tropical depression late on August 23 while southwest of Puerto Rico. By the following morning, it had restrengthened into a tropical storm, though a landfall in Cuba caused it to weaken once again. Entering the Gulf of Mexico, Baker began to strengthen once more, regaining hurricane strength on August 29 and reaching its peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph (165 km/h) early the following day. The cyclone weakened before making its final landfall in the United States near Gulf Shores, Alabama, with winds of 85 mph (140 km/h). Hurricane Baker produced extensive damage in the Lesser Antilles and Cuba, but impacts were minimal in the United States.

Tropical Storm Gordon (2018)

Tropical Storm Gordon was a tropical storm that caused moderate damage along the Gulf Coast of the United States in early September 2018. The seventh named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Gordon developed from a tropical wave that was first monitored in the Caribbean Sea on August 30. The wave moved west-northwestward toward the east coast of Florida and gradually organized. The disturbance was marked as Potential Tropical Cyclone Seven on September 2 while near the Bahamas, and early on September 3, it became Tropical Storm Gordon, moving onto the southwest coast of Florida shortly afterward. Steady intensification began after it left the coast of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico, reaching its peak intensity as a high-end tropical storm late on September 4, before it made landfall just east of Pascagoula, Mississippi, shortly afterwards. Gordon then rapidly weakened inland, before weakening into a remnant low on September 6. Gordon's remnants lingered over Arkansas for two days, and opened up into a trough on September 8. At least three deaths were attributed to the storm, and Gordon caused approximately $200–250 million in damages.


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