Historical Hurricanes: 1941-1980
Some of the more devastating hurricanes included Audrey in 1957, one of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the United States, Camille, and Agnes, which drenched the Northeast in 1972.
Hurricane Audrey Early in the hurricane season, tropical storms often form in the Gulf of Mexico, western Caribbean Sea, or the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico. Hurricane Audrey, a June storm, fit this pattern. It was the most powerful June storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean. Audrey formed in the Bay of Campeche as a tropical storm on June 24, 1957.
Audrey moved due north from there and intensified rapidly into a hurricane in the southern Gulf of Mexico by June 26th. The storm moved north toward the Texas and Louisiana coast and made landfall on June 27th. The storm intensified rapidly while crossing the Gulf, making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The Louisiana coastal area is especially vulnerable to a storm surge because of its low elevation. Storm surge from Audrey exceeded 12 feet on the Louisiana coast as the storm made landfall near Beaumont, Texas. Gulf waters rushed over 25 miles inland.
Many homes were destroyed in the Lake Charles area of Louisiana, and offshore oil installations suffered heavy damage. Estimates placed damage totals at $150 million. Three hundred and ninety people perished
Hurricane Camille Hurricane Camille was one of only two hurricanes to make landfall on the United States mainland in the Twentieth Century as a Category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Only the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane was more intense.
Camille formed in early August 1969. It became a tropical storm and then a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea south of Hispaniola before it moved over extreme western Cuba, where it intensified rapidly in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
The storm's cloud pattern appeared smaller than some hurricanes on satellite images. Since meteorologists in 1969 thought the size of the cloud pattern determined a storm's strength, hurricane forecasters did not realize the strength of Camille. Only after reconnaissance aircraft reported winds of over 150 miles per hour did forecasters know what they were dealing with.
The wind and storm surge damage was catastrophic. The eye of the hurricane made landfall just west of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Gulfport, Mississippi reported winds of 100 miles per hour with gusts from 150 to 175 miles per hour. The storm surge in the Pass Christian/Long Beach, Mississippi, area was in excess of 24 feet!
Even after landfall, Camille continued to wreak havoc in the United States as the storm moved up into Kentucky and then east into Virginia. The higher elevations of Virginia were devastated by flash floods after 27 inches of rain fell in only eight hours. Over 100 people died in the floods alone which brought the total death toll to 256.
Hurricane Agnes Hurricane Agnes was a 1972 storm that proved that a hurricane does not have to be strong to cause extensive damage.
Agnes was a typical June storm that began life as a tropical depression over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Drifting east toward Cuba and then north, it became a hurricane on June 18th in the southern Gulf of Mexico and made landfall near Apalachicola, Florida.
Agnes never did strengthen beyond a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Most of the damage caused by the storm occurred after landfall. It moved slowly through Georgia and the Carolinas, dumping heavy rain in the southern Appalachians. Seventeen tornadoes were reported, mostly in Florida. Flooding was reported from North Carolina through Virginia.
From June 20th to 23rd, the low pressure system hardly moved as it lingered near the Pennsylvania/New York border. Over 15 inches of rain fell in this region and flooding, especially in the Susquehanna River basin, devastated many towns. Most of the damage was in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, causing over $2.1 billion in damage.
Other historical hurricanes from earlier in the century include the 1900 hurricane that wiped out Galveston, Texas, the one which struck the Florida Keys in 1935, and the storm that swept through New England in 1938.
More recent storms include Hugo, which made landfall north of Charleston, South Carolina, and Andrew, which hit the U.S. mainland twice in 1992.