Hurricanes and Virginia
    Virginia is at risk for high winds, coastal flooding, rainfall flooding and tornadoes.

    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:        

    1769        On September 7-8, a hurricane lashed the lower Chesapeake region with high
    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
    coastal Virginia.

    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
    subsequent destruction.

    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
    expensive disasters.)

    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 windspeed 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
    disaster.

    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
    modest damage.

    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 Septenber 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.

    2004        Hurricane Gaston briefly stalled near Richmond in late August, then began to
    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

To learn more, order Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States:            

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