|Hurricanes and Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is at risk for high winds, rainfall flooding and tornadoes.
During the past century, much of eastern Pennsylvania has experienced hurricane force
gusts, if not sustained hurricane strength winds, at some point. High wind events of the
past hundred years occurred in 1954, 1960, 1989 and 2003. Many tropical cyclones
have dumped double-digit rainfall, with Agnes in 1972 ranking as the state's most
destructive flood. A small tidal section along the Delaware River in southeastern
Pennsylvania occasionally floods because of a tropical cyclone. Many tropical systems
have spun off tornadoes.
The following are some of Pennsylvania's significant tropical cyclones:
1869 The Saxby Gale. On October 4, a coastal hurricane brought widespread heavy
rain to the northeastern U.S., from Virginia to Maine. Most areas in Eastern Pennsylvania
collected more than 5 inches. Severe flooding plagued the Mid-Atlantic and New England.
1877 On October 4-5, a remnant tropical system tracked near Pennsylvania, dumping
more than 10 inches of rain on southeastern sections. Flash flooding and several deadly
railroad derailments occurred in eastern Pennsylvania.
1878 The Great October Gale on the 23rd. This ranks as Philadelphia's most
destructive windstorm. Hurricane force winds severely damaged or destroyed about 700
buildings. Considerable structural damage occurred throughout southeastern
Pennsylvania. Gusts in some places peaked at more than 100 mph.
1893 October 13. A tropical cyclone raced through central Pennsylvania bringing
strong gales and tropical storm winds to eastern sections. Isolated peak gusts reached
hurricane force (74 mph).
1896 A hurricane that made landfall on Florida's Gulf Coast devastated central
Pennsylvania on September 29. One of the state's most destructive hurricane-related
windstorms. Hurricane-force gusts pounded a 50-mile east to west corridor, from the
Maryland border to New York. Many homes were unroofed and countless trees were
uprooted. The covered bridge at Columbia, more than a mile long, succumbed to two
hours of tremendous gusts.
1933 The Chesapeake and Potomac Hurricane tracked through the state on August
23. Extensive flooding experienced in eastern Pennsylvania. Sections of Reading and
York were inundated. A total of 13.82 inches of rain fell in York (Aug. 21-24). Gales
whipped the eastern half of the state.
1954 Hurricane Hazel on October 15. Winds gusted from 75 to100 mph in eastern
Pennsylvania as the storm tracked through. Philadelphia International Airport clocked 94
mph, Reading, 86 mph, Allentown, 82 mph and Harrisburg, 80 mph. Total rainfall of 4 to
6 inches caused extensive flash flooding in western Pennsylvania. Most of central and
eastern Pennsylvania collected less than 2 inches. The last three inland hurricanes of
the Mid-Atlantic, the storms of 1878, 1896 and 1954, tracked through eastern
1955 Hurricanes Connie on August 12-13 and Diane on August 18-19 dealt
Pennsylvania a flood disaster. More than a foot of rain from the combined storms fell on
eastern Pennsylvania. Nearly 100 people died. Diane dumped more than 10 inches of
rain in the Poconos on previously saturated ground, causing widespread, epic, flash
1972 Hurricane Agnes struck from June 21-23 and dealt the state its most
destructive natural disaster. Flooding throughout Pennsylvania. Dozens drowned.
Record flooding on the Susquehanna and other rivers in eastern Pennsylvania left tens
of thousands of residents homeless. Agnes was dubbed "Hurricane Agony" by the
governor, who fled the Governor's Residence in Harrisburg as the Susquehanna invaded.
1975 The remnants of Hurricane Eloise dumped flooding rains on the state from
September 23-26. Eloise was not as destructive as Hurricane Agnes but still caused a
major natural disaster.
1999 Hurricane Floyd deluged southeastern Pennsylvania on September 16.
Doylestown tallied 10.07 inches of rain and Valley Forge, outside Philadelphia, had
2001 Tropical Storm Allison, the nation's costliest tropical storm, bucketed suburban
Philadelphia with up to 10 inches of rain on June 17.
2003 Hurricane Isabel's strong gales on September 18 uprooted many trees and
caused record power outages. Southeastern Pennsylvania had its strongest hurricane-
related winds since Hazel in 1954, with gusts generally peaking at 50 to 60 mph and
isolated higher gusts.
2004 Several tropical cyclones that came ashore in Florida caused widespread,
severe flooding in the state and spawned numerous tornadoes. Rain associated with the
remnants of hurricanes Frances (Sept. 8-10), Ivan (Sept. 17-19) and Jeanne (Sept. 27-
28) contributed to one of the state's wettest months.
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2011 Hurricane Irene on August 27-28 and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee
(combined with other weather systems) in early September produced widespread
flooding in eastern Pennsylvania. The Susquehanna River crested at levels similar to
Agnes in some places and produced record flooding on some waterways.
Hurricane Diane in August 1955 brought widespread flash flooding to northeastern Pennsylvania.
Tropical cyclones are an important flood threat in the state, with the most recent examples being Irene and
Lee in 2011.