1903 New Jersey hurricane
|Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)|
|Formed||September 12, 1903|
|Dissipated||September 17, 1903|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained: 100 mph (155 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||990 mbar (hPa); 29.23 inHg|
|Fatalities||35+ direct, 1 indirect|
|Damage||$8 million (1903 USD)|
|Areas affected||Mid-Atlantic States, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York|
|Part of the 1903 Atlantic hurricane season|
The 1903 New Jersey hurricane, also known as the Vagabond Hurricane by The Press of Atlantic City, is the only known North Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the state of New Jersey since records were kept starting in 1851. The fourth hurricane of the season, the cyclone was first observed on September 12 about 550 miles (885 km) northeast of Antigua. It moved quickly westward, then later turned to the north-northwest, steadily strengthening to reach a peak intensity of 100 mph (155 km/h). The hurricane weakened slightly before striking near Atlantic City, New Jersey on September 16 with winds of 80 mph (130 km/h). It weakened over Pennsylvania and became an extratropical cyclone over western New York on September 17.
Rough surf and moderate winds from the hurricane capsized several ships along the East Coast of the United States; 30 people were left missing and presumed killed from a shipwreck in Chincoteague, Virginia. In New Jersey, the hurricane caused heavy damage, particularly near the coast. Dozens of buildings were damaged or destroyed, and damage across the state totalled $8 million (1903 USD, $180 million 2006 USD). On Long Island, President Theodore Roosevelt directly experienced the effects of the hurricane while on a yacht. The life of the president was briefly threatened by the rough conditions, though none on board the yacht suffered any problems from the hurricane.
The genesis of the storm is unknown; it was first observed on September 12 as a 70 mph (120 km/h) tropical storm while located about 550 miles (885 km) northeast of Antigua in the Lesser Antilles. The storm tracked quickly northwestward, followed by a turn to the west-northwest; at 1800 UTC on September 13 the storm passed about 270 miles (435 km) south of Bermuda. Its exact track and intensity is unknown, though it is estimated the storm attained hurricane status late on September 14 about 360 miles (580 km) west-southwest of Bermuda. Under generally favorable conditions, the hurricane steadily intensified as it curved northward, and attained its peak intensity of 100 mph (155 km/h) late on September 15 while located about 110 miles (190 km) southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
Operationally, the hurricane was first classified on the evening of September 15, based on ship reports. Strong winds were also reported along coastal areas of the Mid-Atlantic, and the United States National Weather Bureau issued storm warnings on the morning of September 16 through September 17. The hurricane continued quickly northward, and made landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey shortly before 1200 UTC on September 16 with winds of 80 mph (130 km/h). An area of convection in association with the hurricane continued north-northeastward, and operationally meteorologists estimated the center tracked into Connecticut. However, post-analysis indicates the center of the hurricane continued northwestward, weakened into a tropical storm near Trenton, and after crossing northeastern Pennsylvania transitioned into an extratropical cyclone near Syracuse, New York. The extratropical remnant persisted for another 6 hours before losing its identity over eastern Ontario.
Strong winds were reported along coastal areas of North Carolina, with sustained winds peaking at 72 mph (116 km/h) at Kitty Hawk. Winds reached 54 mph (87 km/h) at Cape Henry, Virginia, and the combination of the winds and rough surf washed some boats ashore. A schooner was lost near Chincoteague, with its crew of 30 missing and presumed killed. A squall line destroyed the front mast of a schooner near Cape Henry, as well. A flock of birds encountered the hurricane over eastern Virginia; hundreds of birds were killed and fell to the ground near Old Point Comfort, many of which were stripped of their feathers. The outer rainbands of the storm produced heavy amounts of precipitation near Washington, D.C., canceling a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Washington Senators.
In Ocean City, Maryland, the hurricane was considered the worst in 40 years. Several schooners broke free from their moorings near Salisbury and were subsequently destroyed after passing downstream. The hurricane produced 80 mph (130 km/h) winds and rough waves along the Delaware Capes. One schooner along the Delaware coastline was destroyed after hitting the rocky coastline; its crew of 5 were killed. Three barges and a steamer capsized in the Delaware Bay, while onshore, the winds of the hurricane destroyed the roofs of 4 houses in Laurel. The winds downed many trees and destroyed several chimneys near Lewes.
Hurricane force winds occurred across coastal areas of South Jersey, one of only two hurricanes to produce hurricane force winds in the state. The storm's strong surf destroyed several boats along the coastline, including 34 in Waretown. The surf damaged or destroyed most fishing piers and oceanfront pavilions in the Atlantic City area, with tons of debris dispersed across the beach. Strong winds from the hurricane downed all telephone and telegraph wires across the coastal region, with initial damage reports provided by trains. Additionally, the winds destroyed the roofs of an estimated 50 to 60 cottages. The strong winds, combined with heavy rainfall, resulted in one indirect fatality when a man, unable to see owing to the hurricane, drove into a train in Cape May. At least 2 houses were destroyed in Atlantic City. Several streets were flooded, with severe transportation delays reported. Damage across the state was estimated at $8 million (1903 USD, $180 million 2006 USD); the worst of the damage occurred in Atlantic City, though moderate damage extended from Cape May northward through Asbury Park.
President Theodore Roosevelt directly experienced the effects of the hurricane while vacationing on the navel yacht Sylph along Long Island. Also on the yacht were Roosvelt's wife, son, his secretary, several friends and members of the press association. The yacht experienced gusty winds and heavy rainfall, along with rough seas. After the President was considered to be in danger, the yacht headed for land, and instead of embarking toward Ellis Island as originally planned, the yacht approached Brooklyn Navy Yard. No one onboard was injured. Rough waves sunk or severely damaged dozens of boats across coastal areas of New York, leaving dozens injured. Winds in New York City reached 65 mph (105 km/h), with tropical storm force winds extending into Maine. The outer moisture of the hurricane dropped 2.4 inches (61 mm) of rain in Central Park, with its gusty winds causing damage to suburban houses and signs. The storm in New York City lasted 4 to 5 hours with its height occurring around 12:30PM. Numerous windows were smashed in Manhattan and horse-drawn carriages were blown over. Homes in Brooklyn were flooded and sustained some damage such as chimneys, awnings blown down and some roofs taken off. Church Steeples were dislodged or blown off. In Brighton Beach the roof of the Ocean Hotel was completely blown off and a similar fate befell the top of the Steeplechase Tower in Coney Island resort area which sustained considerable damage. The hurricane also left businesses and the stock market quiet for the day, owing to the threat of blowing debris.
- List of Atlantic hurricanes
- List of New Jersey hurricanes
- List of Delaware hurricanes
- Hurricane Irene
- Hurricane Sandy
- Buchholz, Margaret; Larry Savadove (1993). Great Storms of the Jersey Shore. Down the Shore Publishing. ISBN 0-945582-51-X.
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- Staff Writer (1903-09-16). "Storm Sweeps Jersey Coast". Fort Wayne Sentinel. Retrieved 2007-03-29.
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- Mr. Roosevelt Weathers Gale Baltomore Morning Herold September 17, 1903
- Furious Gale Lashes City and Harbor New York Times September 17, 1903