1887 Halloween tropical storm
|Tropical storm (SSHWS)|
Track map of the storm
|Formed||October 29, 1887|
|Dissipated||November 6, 1887 (Became extratropical on October 31)|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
70 mph (110 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||993 mbar (hPa); 29.32 inHg|
|Damage||~ $7,000 (1887 USD)|
|Areas affected||Gulf Coast, Florida, Georgia, The Carolinas, Virginia, East Coast of the United States, Atlantic Canada|
|Part of the 1887 Atlantic hurricane season|
The 1887 Halloween tropical storm was a powerful tropical cyclone that caused severe damage along the East Coast of the United States during Halloween of 1887. The sixteenth tropical storm of the annual hurricane season, it formed from an area of disturbed weather over the Gulf of Mexico on October 29. The storm later came ashore along the west coast of Florida. After crossing the state, it produced severe thunderstorms along the North Carolina–Virginia coastline before becoming extratropical on November 1. The extratropical system intensified into the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. It eventually dissipated on November 6, shortly after hitting northwest France.
The storm affected the town of Norfolk, where it became the most damaging storm since 1879. Despite the damage inland, the storm is best known for the unusually high amount of shipwrecks and maritime incidents it caused. One ship, a schooner called the Manantico, capsized, killing the captain and one of its crew members. Three other ships were driven ashore on Virginia beaches from Dam Rock to Cape Henry, and numerous others were put in danger.
The storm originated from an area of disturbed weather that had persisted in the Gulf of Mexico during late October 1887, outside the area of coastal stations. On October 29, the disturbance completed tropical cyclogenesis and became the sixteenth tropical storm of the season. After forming, the storm was located 200 miles (320 km) northwest of Key West and began moving east-northeastward, making landfall on the Florida Peninsula. It crossed land and emerged over water within the next eight hours while weakening. During its passage near Fort Meade, the storm had an estimated barometric pressure of 1,007 millibars (29.7 inHg), supporting minimal tropical storm strength. Upon crossing the state, it paralleled the East Coast for two days while restrengthening. It passed closest to land near the North Carolina coastline on October 31 at its peak intensity, with sustained winds of 70 mph (110 km/h) and a pressure of 993 millibars (29.3 inHg). Shortly after moving away from land, it became extratropical.
The extratropical cyclone moved away from the coast and strengthened to the equivalent of a Category 1 hurricane on the modern-day Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale on November 1. It began a weakening trend on November 2 while taking a wavering path across the north Atlantic Ocean. On November 4, the cyclone started a general east-southeast motion, passing near the southwest coasts of Ireland and Great Britain. It made landfall on the Cotentin Peninsula of France on November 6 and dissipated, although one proposed track, which is a modified track that differs from the official record due to new evidence or theory, was given by Charles Mitchell that showed the cyclone executing a counter-clockwise loop over northwest France until dissipating the storm on November 8.
In its formative stages, the storm was responsible for causing rain from the Rio Grande Valley along the Gulf Coast to Florida. As the storm crossed Florida, Fort Meade recorded less than 1 in (2.5 cm) of rainfall. As it strengthened off the East Coast, the storm caused damage in various towns. A maximum wind speed of 54 mph (87 km/h) was measured at Hatteras, North Carolina. In Kitty Hawk, impact from the storm was more intense, generating maximum winds of 60 mph (97 km/h) to as high as 70 mph (110 km/h) from late on October 30 to the following afternoon; despite the intensity, only minor damage was reported. In Lenoir and Raleigh, heavy rain totals up to 4.18 in (10.6 cm) were reported. Unusually, reports of hail and snow were also received from these locations. Telegraph poles were snapped on Bodie Island and south of Little Kinnakeet, affecting communication. The worst land-based impact from the storm was in Virginia. Cape Henry was hit with a combination of wind, rain, and blown sand on October 31 and communications between Cape Henry and Norfolk were lost. In Norfolk, the storm was the longest-lasting and most damaging since the Great Beaufort Hurricane of 1879. The storm conditions made beaches in the area so hazardous that they were watched day and night. Effects from the storm reached as far north as Provincetown, Massachusetts, where winds of 60 mph (97 km/h) were recorded.
Despite causing damage along the East Coast, the storm is best known for causing a record number of maritime incidents. Numerous ships were caught in the storm from October 30, when the steamship Claribel reported gale-force winds, to November 6, when another steamship, the Australia, reported stormy weather. One ship, the brig Osseo, was caught in the storm on November 1 and became flooded. Although the pumps were manned, the water level inside the ship soon reached 4 ft (1.2 m). After being carried away by a wave, the distressed ship was spotted by the Camalia, which rescued the crew and brought them to port. Another vessel, the Wyonoka, spotted a sunken schooner with its five crew grasping the mast and ropes: they were also rescued. In addition, four ships were deemed total losses after being beached in Virginia. The first was the Mary D. Cranmer, which was ripped from its cables and stranded near Cape Henry. Shortly after the rescue of the crew of the Cranmer another ship, the Carrie Holmes, was found beached. The ship had been driven so far up the beach that its crew were able to jump and wade to safety.
A third ship, the Manantico also crashed into shore due to a combination of the storm and human error in which the captain confused Cape Henry with Cape Charles after spotting another schooner. The Manantico was also where the two deaths associated with the storm occurred. The first was when a cook on the ship was crushed to death by the cargo of lumber being hauled by the ship. The ship was then pushed towards a sand bar. The captain, who had stayed high on the starboard side for safety, began climbing down to slip the ship cables, but the ship made a sudden stop. This flung the captain into the water, and he drowned. Both bodies were found after the storm and were very disfigured. The captain was sent to Middletown, Connecticut for interment while the body of the cook was buried on the beach. The final ship was the Harriet Thomas, which was the schooner spotted by the Manantico. After beaching, the crew managed to get a rope to shore where fishermen had tied the other end. The crew were able to climb ashore, although the captain had to be rescued via alternate means due to being too heavy for this method. The ship was written off as a $7000 (1887 USD) loss. Although all four ships were beached, due to the loss of communications, only one wreck – that of the Mary D. Cranmer – was reported in the Norfolk Virginian newspaper. As a result, news of the two deaths from the Manantico were initially unreported.
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