|Hurricanes and Virginia
During the past century, all sections in the eastern half of the state have experienced
hurricane force gusts, if not sustained hurricane strength winds. High wind events of the
past hundred years occurred in 1933, 1936, 1944, 1954, 1955, 1960, 1985, 1996 and
2003. Hurricane Isabel in 2003 was the last tropical cyclone to bring significant coastal
and interior tidal section flooding. The remnants of Hurricane Floyd in 1999 deluged
southeastern Virginia and is among the periodic tropical cyclones that have generated
double-digit rainfall and severe flooding. Many tropical systems have spun off tornadoes.
The following are some of Virginia's significant tropical cyclones:
winds and tides, as well as torrential rain. It caused extensive crop losses. The storm also
caused widespread moderate to extreme damage. This ranks as one of the bay region's
most destructive hurricanes of the century.
1788 George Washington's Hurricane. The remnants of a hurricane passed through
Washington's estate at Mount Vernon on July 23-24, an event recorded in his journal. The
storm whipped eastern Virginia with strong gales, heavy rain and severe flooding in tidal
areas. (This event seems much like Hurricane Isabel in 2003.)
1821 A hurricane tracked inside the coast on September 3. One of eastern Virginia's
most destructive windstorms. A "tidal wave" was observed at Chincoteague. Damage to
Norfolk was "incalculable," according to one account. This storm became legendary in
1825 Virginia's earliest of hurricane season significant tropical cyclone struck on June
3-4. The storm was notable along the coast, with prolonged gales and damaging tides.
1876 The Centennial Gale caused the highest tide in generations through the
Chesapeake Bay region and blew damaging winds throughout the eastern half of Virginia
on September 16-17. It left considerable crop losses and uprooted trees--a pruning similar
to that from Hurricane Isabel in 2003.
1877 A remnant hurricane system on October 4 caused severe flooding in the
Shenandoah Valley. This ranks as one of the valley's historic floods. The loss of woodland
for fuel and construction, as well as erosive agricultural practices, added to the runoff and
1878 A strong hurricane raced through eastern Virginia on Oct. 23 bringing crop
losses, as well as considerable structural damage to many dwellings. Hurricane force
gusts lashed the Chesapeake Bay, generating 15 to 20 foot waves. The schooner A.S.
Davis foundered off Virginia Beach, with the loss of 19 crew members.
1879 Norfolk was battered by an intense hurricane on August 19. Hurricane force
winds and considerable property losses made this event almost the equal of the 1821
hurricane. The storm was severe throughout the southeastern Virginia.
1896 One of Virginia's most destructive windstorms. On September 29, a band of
hurricane-force winds, 50 miles wide, swept through the middle third of the state, from the
North Carolina border to Maryland. Richmond, Fredericksburg and Alexandria received
unprecedented wind damage. (A similar event today would rank among the state's most
1925 The latest hurricane on record to strike the United States (Dec.1) tracked off the
VIrginia shore on December 2-3. It pelted southeastern Virginia with several inches of rain.
Cape Henry clocked a 5-minute wind speed of 60 mph.
1928 Two tropical systems, on August 11-12 and August 16-17, brought Virginia one
of its wettest months. Flooding occurred throughout the eastern half of the state.
1933 The storied Chesapeake and Potomac Hurricane. Hurricane force gusts were
recorded in southeastern Virginia and gusts of 50 to 70 mph howled throughout the
eastern half of the state on August 23. Significant coastal and Chesapeake Bay flooding.
Additional flooding from heavy rains. A second significant hurricane brushed the coast on
September 16, causing damage in eastern Virginia.
1935 The Great Labor Day Hurricane raked the Old Dominion with gales, tornadoes
and flooding rain on September 6. It was particularly severe in the Northern and Middle
Neck regions. Rainfall totals included (Sept. 4-6): Tappahannock, 12.24 inches, Dahlgren,
11.85 inches, and Fredericksburg, 8.13 inches.
1936 A Category 2 hurricane passed 25 miles east of Virginia Beach. It caused
damaging winds and tides on September 8. It nearly made landfall in Hampton Roads. The
storm is among several big Virginia coastal hurricanes during the 1930s and 1940s.
1942 Record flooding plagued northwestern Virginia as a dying tropical storm stalled
over the area during the middle of October. Nearly 17 inches of rain fell at Riverton. This
storm caused Fredericksburg's worst flood. It produced benchmark flooding along the
Rappahannock and Potomac rivers.
1944 The Great Atlantic Hurricane stayed just offshore on September 14, causing
moderate coastal damage. A sustained wind of 134 mph was recorded at Cape Henry,
with a gust estimated at 150 mph.
1954 On October 15, Hurricane Hazel raced through the state bringing hurricane
force winds to the eastern third and flooding rains to the Blue Ridge region. Hazel lashed
Suffolk in southeastern Virginia with a 108 mph gust. 100+ mph gusts were recorded in
Norfolk. Other gusts included 79 mph in Richmond and 98 mph in Washington, D.C.
1955 In August, hurricanes Connie and Diane swept through the state bringing
flooding rains to the eastern half of Virginia. Connie tracked over the Chesapeake Bay
with tropical storm-force winds on August 12. A daily record rainfall of 8.79 inches pelted
Richmond that day. Diane dumped up to 10 inches of rain on the Shenandoah Valley on
the 18th, with much flash flooding.
1960 Hurricane Donna brought hurricane force winds to the Virginia coast on
September 12. An estimated gust of 138 mph was reported 17 miles off Virginia Beach on
the Chesapeake Lightship. An 89 mph gust was reported at Virginia Beach.
1964 The remnants of Hurricane Cleo dropped over 10 inches of rain on the Virginia
coast. Norfolk collected 11.40 inches in 20 hours on August 31 and September 1. Virginia
Beach tallied a 24-hour rainfall of 13.70 inches. Hurricane Dora arrived later in the month
and dumped additional torrential rain.
1969 The remnants of Hurricane Camille on August 19-20 dumped at least 27 inches
of rain in about five hours on part of Nelson County. Deadly flash flooding and mudslides
resulted from the epic deluge. Flooding was severe along the James River and elsewhere
throughout central Virginia. More than 150 people died in the state's deadliest hurricane
1972 Hurricane Agnes brought extreme flooding throughout much of the Old
Dominion on June 21-22. It tanks as one of Virginia's most destructive and costly floods; an
environmental calamity for the state's waterways, particularly the Chesapeake Bay.
1979 Hurricane David tracked through on September 5. Gales swept an area from the
Blue Ridge to the coast. A tornado outbreak caused several deaths and significant
damage, especially in the Tidewater and Northern Virginia regions.
1985 Hurricane Gloria on September 27 pummeled coastal areas. An offshoot of
Hurricane Juan brought tidal flooding on the Chesapeake Bay , as well as severe stream
and river flooding in northwestern Virginia and sections of West Virginia on November 4-5.
1996 Hurricane Fran brought widespread power outages, gales and heavy rain to
much of the state on September 5. The Shenandoah Valley was particularly hard hit by
immense flooding. Earlier, on July 12, Hurricane Bertha swept through the state causing
1998 Hurricane Bonnie on August 27 lashed the Tidewater region with several hours
of 50+ mph gusts. The high winds caused widespread power outages and property losses.
1999 Hurricane Floyd brought more than 10 inches of rain to part of the Tidewater
region and Eastern Shore on September 16. Franklin in southeastern Virginia was
devastated as more than 15 inches fell. Epic rainfall caused one of the state's historic
natural disasters. 16.57 inches of rain deluged Newport News from September 14-16.
2003 Hurricane Isabel struck on September 18. About 10 hours of high winds
resulted in an immense loss of trees in the eastern third of the state and record power
outages. Peak gusts included Norfolk Naval Station, 83 mph, Quantico 78 mph, Langley
AFB 76 mph and Richmond International Airport, 73 mph. Gusts flirted with 100 mph in the
Middle and Northern Neck regions, adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay.
strengthen with its center over land. As with other tropical cyclones that re-intensified over
land in Virginia (the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Cleo, Camille, Agnes) rainfall rates
soared, with over 10 inches in some sections of the RIchmond metropolitan area. Most fell
within two hours, causing devastating flash flooding.
2011 Hurricane Irene tracked along the coast on August 27. Heavy rain, including
some totals more than 10 inches, fell on eastern sections of Virginia. Irene lashed the
eastern third of Virginia with tropical storm and isolated hurricane force gusts. In early
September, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee produced flash flooding in some sections
of eastern Virginia, with the Washington, DC, suburbs particularly hard hit.
Virginia Weather Links
Office of the Virginia state climatologist: http://climate.virginia.edu/
Virginia hurricane history: www.hpc.ncep.noaa.gov/research/roth/vahur.htm
Storm preparation and safety: www.ReadyVirginia.gov
Unisys offers maps of hurricane tracks beginning in 1851: http://weather.unisys.com
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