Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England: 1634-2011"

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From Weather Underground's Weather History:
Historic Hurricanes from New Jersey to New England: 1634-2011
A very large though not intense hurricane is bearing down on the mid-Atlantic coastline as I write this Saturday morning August 27, 2011. This blog is a review of significant hurricanes that have in the past affected the New Jersey, New York City, Long Island, and Northeastern portions of the United States. I arrange this review in a chronological order beginning with the first European settlement of the northeastern United States in 1620.

17th Century

August 1635: The Great Colonial Hurricane
David Ludlum, America’s greatest weather historian, notes that Rev. Increase Mather reported in his treatise ‘Remarkable Providences’ (1684) that he had heard “of no other storm more dismal than the great hurricane which was in August 1635”. Ludlum writes “this was the greatest meteorological event of the colonial period in New England, coming only 15 years after the settlement of Plymouth Plantation in the Massachusetts Bay Colony”. John Winthrop and William Bedford witnessed the storm. It struck on August 16, 1635 and leveled the forests of the region. The native population agreed no such storm in their lore had been so powerful.

September 1675: A hurricane said to be almost as powerful as the 1635 strikes New London, Connecticut and Boston. Ludlum notes that this storm was equal to the hurricanes to strike Massachusetts and Connecticut in 1635, 1815, 1938, and 1944.

18th Century

No significant hurricanes in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic are on record aside from the tropical storm that struck Philadelphia on October 22, 1743; Benjamin Franklin measured it accurately using scientific weather measurements for the first time in United States history. The storm was not that significant otherwise. The most significant hurricane of in the 18th century would be the hurricane of September 1775. It “exacted a toll on human lives higher than any pervious American mainland hurricane” according to weather historian David M. Ludlum. 163 lives were lost on the North Carolina Capes and at sea off New England. The path of the storm followed one similar to Hurricane Hazel in 1954; inland over eastern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia harbor reported its highest tide on record.

Chronological list of known 17-18th Century New Jersey to New England Tropical Storms

August 1635
August 3, 1638
October 5, 1638
September 7, 1675
August 23, 1683
October 29, 1693
October 18, 1703
October 14, 1706
October 25, 1716
September 27, 1727
October 22, 1743
October 8, 1749
October 24, 1761
September 8, 1769
September 3, 1775
October 9,1783
August 19, 1788

19th Century

August 21-24, 1806: The hurricane of August 1806 was very similar to Irene. It made a short transit over Cape Hatteras and then slowly marched northeastward affecting only coastal regions (not even noticed 100 miles inland). New York City was “soundly lashed” and at least 21 sailors were lost off the New Jersey coast. Much damaged occurred on Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Cape Cod.

September 23, 1815: ‘The Great Gale’ This hurricane ranked foremost in the minds of the population in New York and New England at the time. The storm passed east of New York City but hit Long Island soundly. The storm was similar to the 1938 hurricane in that it had a forward motion of 50mph as it plowed on to Long Island. The eye moved over eastern Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. Like the great hurricane of 1938, Narragansett Bay, Rhode Isalnd was most affected. The area was sparsely populated at this time unlike 1938 and only two deaths were reported.

The Great Gale of 1815 inundates Providence, Rhode Island as depicted in this painting by John Russell Bartlett. Rhode Island Historical Society.

September 3, 1821: Last Time a Hurricane Passed Directly over New York City On September 3, 1821 the eye of a hurricane passed directly over New York City. The center crossed Long Island (where JKF Airport is now). Records indicate that this is the only MAJOR hurricane to have passed directly over the city in at least 250 years. The New York Post published this report on September 4th:...MORE