|Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes: A Closer Examination
Welcome to Mid-Atlantic Hurricanes: A Closer Examination. This is a
periodic column based on the book Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic
States. It examines tropical cyclones from a historical perspective.
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|Hurricanes: "Believe It Or Not"
Quirks, oddities and strange occurrences...
|Hurricane Anniversaries in 2014
10th 2004 became the year of the hurricane related flood and related tornado
along much of the Eastern Seaboard. Florida became "Hurricane Central." Charlie,
Frances, Ivan, Jeanne and Gaston moved north-northeast like on a conveyor belt.
Ivan (Sept. 17-18 in Mid-Atlantic) brought the most widespread tornado outbreak
and most severe flooding. Hurricane Gaston on August 30 brought the Richmond,
Virginia, metropolitan area one of its worst flash flood events.
15th Flooding and Hurricane Floyd became synonymous on Sept. 16, 1999.
Many sections within 75 miles west of its track through eastern North Carolina,
Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey received more than 10 inches or
rain, with isolated totals near 20 inches. Waterways rose to historic levels. Floyd
caused immense environmental damage to many streams and rivers along its
path. A Category 2 hurricane at landfall in North Carolina, it maintained at least
minimal hurricane strength and an intact eye as far north as Ocean City, Maryland.
25th Hurricane Hugo smashed ashore near Charleston, South Carolina, on
Sept. 21-22,1989. Its maximum 135 mph sustained winds and immense storm
surge devastated the South Carolina coast. The rapidly moving storm carved a
destructive wind blown track well inland, tracking through South Carolina, North
Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Hurricane force gusts were
reported as far north as western Pennsylvania. Hugo is the last Category 4 level
hurricane to make landfall along the U.S. coast north of Florida.
35th Rarely do dying hurricanes produce as many tornadoes as Hurricane
David. It made landfall in Florida and then again near Savannah,Georgia, before
charging along an interior track up the East Coast. Epic flash flooding occurred
from the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., through the Baltimore
metropolitan area on Sept. 5-6, 1979. The storm spawned dozens of tornadoes,
including particularly destructive ones in southeastern Virginia and in Fairfax
County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C.
45th Hurricane Camille slammed through the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Aug.
17, 1969, as a Category 5 hurricane. It reached Virginia as a downgraded tropical
depression on Aug. 19-20. Camille unexpectedly began to intensify as the storm
moved east through Virginia en route to the Atlantic Ocean. More than 27 inches
of rain fell in Nelson County, near Charlottesville, from about 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on
Aug. 19-20. Mud slides and flash flooding killed 151 people in the state, the Old
Dominion's deadliest natural disaster.
60th On Oct. 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel, of Category 4 intensity at landfall,
devastated the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York while
racing into Canada. Hours of hurricane force gusts blasted sections east of its
track along the entire route. Peak gusts at official weather stations included 108
mph in Suffolk, Va., and 112 mph at Patuxent Naval Air Station in Maryland. (The
60 years since Hurricane Hazel mark the longest interval between such 'inland
hurricanes' affecting Virginia and Maryland in at least the past 400 years.)
75th On Aug. 19-20, 1939, the remnants of a tropical storm dumped 14.81
inches of rain on Tuckerton, N.J. That remains the state's greatest 24 hour rainfall
total at an official weather station.
Hurricane Ivan during September 2004 brought a tornado outbreak to the
Mid-Atlantic region. A house in Remington, Virginia., and outbuildings from a
farm north of Brunswick, Maryland, were among many destroyed buildings.
(Photographs by Rick Schwartz)
Hurricanes may bring almost unbelievable effects. The following is a sampling of amazing
happenings in the Mid-Atlantic region:
Hurricane Arthur was a rarity, a Category 2 storm slamming the North Carolina Outer Banks on
July 3. It became one of the earliest hurricanes of that strength to make an East Coast landfall. A rare
happening but not unique. On June 3, 1825, a hurricane of likely Category 2 intensity made landfall in
North Carolina and swept up the Eastern Seaboard causing extensive damage.
In September 1944, the Great Atlantic Hurricane brought a sustained wind of 134 mph to Cape
Henry, Virginia., and churned up what witnesses described as a "tidal wave" along nearly the entire
New Jersey coast. Boo Pergament of Atlantic City, then 12, recalls, "... the wave came crashing down
with a thunderous movement and reached the Boardwalk in a second. It picked up the entire
Boardwalk off its concrete supports as far as I could see in either direction, tossed it over backwards,
and crushed it like you'd crush toothpicks."
Hurricane Hazel in 1954 charged ashore in North Carolina as a Category 4 hurricane. Earlier, it
swept through Haiti with deadly results. Debris littering the North Carolina shore included green
coconuts, bamboo, large tropical clams and a mahogany bowl inscribed "Made in Haiti."
Massive, sudden, storm waves are not limited to the coast. Rose Garvin, a resident of the Eastern
Shore of Maryland, observed a wall of water lunge into the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay on
Tilghman Island as Hazel's winds shifted to the west. Several feet high, it heralded the return of 100
Tornadoes often occur as the remnants of hurricanes track through the Mid-Atlantic region. Usually,
they are low-end and short-lived. However, in 1888 a hurricane spawned tornado tracked from the
northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., to Wilmington, Delaware, a distance of about 80 miles.
Tragically, the twister--at times several twisters--killed a dozen people.
In 1939, a hurricane remnant dropped 14.81inches of rain on Tuckerton, New Jersey, within 24
hours. This established a 24 hour rainfall record at an official weather station in the state. Just a year
later, another hurricane caused thunderstorms to stall in western New Jersey. They dumped 22.4
inches in Ewan, about 20 miles south of Philadelphia. This occurred in about 10 hours.
Nelson County, Virginia, about 30 miles southwest of Charlottesvile, received up to at least 27
inches of rain in 1969 during the passage of Hurricane Camille. Nearly all occurred within five hours.
One man in the hardest hit area said that he had to cup his hands over his nose to breathe during the
worst of the onslaught.
August 1928 ranks among the wettest months in central and northern Virginia, as well as the
eastern half of Maryland. Two hurricane remnants tracked through in close proximity and the
conducive atmosphere ahead and behind them brought frequent rainfall. Trappe, Maryland, on the
Eastern Shore was deluged. In his book, Irregularities in Abundance, James Dawson relates an item
from the Easton Star Democrat entitled, "Millions of Frogs Infest Trappe Streets." It seems that the wet
conditions caused an inundation that suggested that for a time frogs rained on the vicinity.
While hurricane floods often destroy landmarks, Agnes in 1972 unearthed one. A section of the first
13 miles of U.S. railroad tracks, built in 1830, was discovered after the flood on the Patapsco River
near Baltimore, Maryland.
The eye of a hurricane can vary in size from a few miles to a few dozen miles. Few storms outdo the
eye of Hurricane Donna in September 1960. As the storm tracked east of the Mid-Atlantic Coast and
into Long Island, its eye became elliptical, about 75 miles wide. A brief glimpse of sunshine lit up
many beaches and nearly all of Long Island before hurricane force gusts and torrential rain returned
from the west.
Hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012 made landfall in New Jersey. The previous hurricane
to make landfall in the Garden State visited in 1903. During the past 400 years, prior to Irene and
Sandy, hurricanes had never made landfall in New Jersey in consecutive years.
Who knows what this hurricane season will bring? If an intense hurricane batters the region it will
likely cause quirks, oddities and strange occurrences.