1919 Florida Keys hurricane

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Florida Keys Hurricane of 1919
Category 4 hurricane (SSHWS)
Spanish Fort a la Venice 1919.jpg
Spanish Fort Amusement Park on the outskirts of New Orleans far from the hurricane, flooded from overflow of Lake Pontchartrain.
Formed September 2, 1919 (1919-09-02)
Dissipated September 14, 1919 (1919-09-15)
Highest winds 1-minute sustained:
150 mph (240 km/h)
Lowest pressure 927 mbar (hPa); 27.37 inHg
Fatalities 772 total
Damage $22 million (1919 USD)
Areas affected Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos Islands, Cuba, Bahamas, Florida, Texas, Mexico
Part of the 1919 Atlantic hurricane season

The Florida Keys Hurricane or Atlantic Gulf Hurricane of 1919 was an intense Atlantic hurricane, killing 772 people as it moved through the Florida Keys and Texas. The second tropical cyclone of the 1919 hurricane season, it moved in the proximity of the eastern Greater Antilles and Bahamas before moving through the Florida Keys and central Gulf of Mexico into southern Texas. Among the top ten Atlantic hurricanes by intensity, it is one of the most intense hurricanes on record for Key West, Florida and the first hurricane to cause significant damage to the city of Corpus Christi, Texas. Damage from the storm totaled $22 million (1919 USD).

Meteorological history[edit]

Map showing the sequential path of the storm; the colored points indicate the storm's position and intensity at six-hour intervals.

On September 1, 1919, daily weather maps depicted a tropical wave near the Lesser Antilles. The poorly developed system, lacking a low-level circulation,[1] gradually became better defined and was classified as a tropical depression the following day near the island of Guadeloupe.[2] Around this time, the system had developed a closed low with a barometric pressure of 1010 mbar (hPa; 29.82 inHg).[1] Although no gale-force winds were reported in the region,[1] the system is thought to have attained tropical storm status early on September 3 while situated southeast of Puerto Rico. Tracking northwest, the storm grazed the southwestern tip of the island the following day with winds of 50 mph (85 km/h). As a result of the interaction with land, the system weakened slightly before moving back into the Atlantic Ocean near the Dominican Republic.[2]

By September 5, the system had slowed to 4 mph (6.4 km/h) and turned northward after remaining nearly parallel with the northern coastline of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for two days. A northwest, and later westward, track resumed on September 7 as the storm intensified into a Category 1 hurricane on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. By this time, the hurricane had moved over the eastern Bahamas;[2] however, reports from the region only indicated winds of 40 mph (65 km/h).[1] The storm quickly intensified while tracking through the Bahamas, attaining major hurricane status during the afternoon of September 8 near the southern tip of Andros Island. Just prior to moving over the Florida Strait, the hurricane was estimated to have attained Category 4 intensity on September 9. Gradual intensification took place over the following day before the storm attained its peak intensity on September 10 near the Florida Keys.[2]

Most intense landfalling U.S. hurricanes
Intensity is measured solely by central pressure
Rank Hurricane Season Landfall pressure
1 "Labor Day" 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
2 Camille 1969 900 mbar (hPa)
3 Katrina 2005 920 mbar (hPa)
4 Andrew 1992 922 mbar (hPa)
5 "Indianola" 1886 925 mbar (hPa)
6 "Florida Keys" 1919 927 mbar (hPa)
7 "Okeechobee" 1928 929 mbar (hPa)
8 "Great Miami" 1926 930 mbar (hPa)
Donna 1960 930 mbar (hPa)
10 Carla 1961 931 mbar (hPa)
Source: HURDAT,[2] Hurricane
Research Division[3]

Several ships in the vicinity of the storm recorded very low atmospheric pressures, with the lowest being 927 mbar (hPa; 27.37 inHg). This reading was the lowest during the storm's existence and presumed to be measured within the storm's eye.[1] Additionally, sustained winds within the eyewall were estimated to have reached 150 mph (240 km/h) as the storm moved neared Key West, Florida.[2] At the time, this storm became the second strongest landfalling United States hurricane on record, only the 1886 Indianola hurricane had a lower pressure at landfall. However, since then, four other storms have surpassed this hurricane, including the 1935 Labor Day hurricane which struck the Florida Keys 26 years later.[2]

After entering the Gulf of Mexico, the system began to weaken.[2] By September 12, the storm had again slowed to 4 mph (6.4 km/h) as well as weakened to a Category 3 hurricane. Ships in the region reported pressures as low as 942 mbar (hPa; 27.82 inHg) near the storm's eye.[1] The following day, the hurricane underwent a period of brief intensification, re-attaining Category 4 status and reaching its secondary peak intensity at the end of this phase. Early on September 13, maximum winds were estimated at 145 mph (230 km/h) and the lowest pressure was recorded at 931 mbar (hPa; 27.49 inHg).[2]

"Storm Baffled by Seawall". In 1919, central Galveston, Texas, was protected from storm surge by the seawall built after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. However the lower portion of Galveston Island beyond the seawall was flooded.

After maintaining Category 4 status for roughly 30 hours, the storm weakened once more to a Category 3 system as it approached the Texas coastline on September 13.[2] The hurricane made landfall between Corpus Christi and Brownsville with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) late on September 14. Upon making landfall, a pressure of 950 mbar (hPa; 28.05 inHg) was recorded.[1] Rapid weakening took place shortly thereafter, with the system weakening to a tropical depression roughly 24 hours after moving over land.[2] By September 16, the system had degenerated into an open trough with no indications of gale-force winds associated with it.[1]


At 10 a.m. on September 8, northeast storm warnings were hoisted for the Florida coast between Jupiter and Key West. By 1 p.m., the storm warnings were changed to hurricane warnings. At 2 p.m., northeast storm warnings went up for the Tampa Bay area. On September 9, the hurricane warnings were changed back to northeast storm warnings, which were extended along the west coast of Florida northward from Key West to Tampa. On the 10th at 10:30 p.m., northeast storm warnings were issued from Carrabelle, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana. On the 11th at 4 p.m., the storm warnings for the northeast Gulf coast were changed to hurricane warnings, and extended westward along the length of the Louisiana coast. At 9 p.m., northwest storm warnings were issued for the northwest Gulf coast from Port Arthur to Velasco, Texas. At 4 p.m. on the 12th, storm warnings were in effect from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida, with hurricane warnings in effect along the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. On the evening of the 13th, northwest storm warnings were in effect for the entire Texas coast.[4]


Deadliest United States hurricanes
Rank Hurricane Season Fatalities
1 "Galveston" 1900 8,000–12,000†
2 "Okeechobee" 1928 2,500+†
3 Katrina 2005 1,836
4 "Cheniere Caminada" 1893 1,100–1,400*
5 "Sea Islands" 1893 1,000–2,000†
6 "Florida Keys" 1919 778
7 "Georgia" 1881 700†
8 Audrey 1957 416
9 "Labor Day" 1935 408
10 "Last Island" 1856 400†
†estimated total
Reference: Deadliest US hurricanes[5]

While passing through the Bahamas on September 8, the Ward Line steamer Corydon struck land and later sank during the storm. The ship was not found until September 11, at which time it was discovered that 27 people on board had drowned while nine others managed to survive after swimming to shore.[6] On the islands, strong winds produced by the hurricane destroyed numerous homes and sank several schooners, leaving many homeless.[7] In the Florida Strait, a Cuban vessel carrying 45 people was stranded during the storm. However, another ship in the area managed to reach the Cuban vessel and rescue all passengers.[8]

A tornado, spawned by the hurricane, struck Goulds, Florida on September 10, moving inland from Biscayne Bay. It caused US$25,000 (1919 dollars) in damage.[9] Of the approximately 600-900 people officially reported killed in the storm, roughly 500 of them were aboard ten ships lost at sea. Damage and casualties on the Texas coast were also severe, in part due to false rumors that the storm had turned north into Louisiana, which warranted taking storm warnings in Corpus Christi down the day before landfall.[10] Though warnings were posted again early the following day, the citizens were ill-prepared when the hurricane made landfall south of the city as a major hurricane; the storm surge was as high as 16 feet (4.9 m).

This large storm spread winds of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) across Miami, Florida, Burrwood, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas. A total of 1500 cattle were driven off of Padre Island into Laguna Madre. Heavy rains were common across southern Texas, with numerous locations recording 6 inches (150 mm) to 12 inches (300 mm) of rainfall within 24 hours, which set daily rainfall records.[11] The death toll in Texas was officially 286, but may have been as high as 600.[10]

Lasting impact[edit]

The storm surge caused by this hurricane prompted the city of Corpus Christi to construct a breakwater in 1925, and a seawall was subsequently built in 1940.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Chris Landsea, David Glenn, William Bredemeyer, Michael Chenoweth, Ryan Ellis, John Gamache, Cary Mock, Ramon Perez, Ricardo Prieto, Jorge Sanchez-Sesma, Donna Thomas and Lenworth Woolcock (September 5, 2007). "A Reanalysis of the 1911–20 Atlantic Hurricane Database" (PDF). National Hurricane Center. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hurricane Specialists Unit (2009). "Easy-to-read-HURDAT 1851-2008". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved February 22, 2010. 
  3. ^ National Hurricane Center; Hurricane Research Division; Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (March 2014). "Chronological List of All Continental United States Hurricanes: 1851-2011". United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Oceanic & Atmospheric Research. Retrieved 2014-03-26. 
  4. ^ H. C. Frankenfield. Special Forecasts and Warnings: Weather and Crops. Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
  5. ^ Blake, Eric S; Landsea, Christopher W; Gibney, Ethan J; National Climatic Data Center; National Hurricane Center (August 10, 2011). The deadliest, costliest and most intense United States tropical cyclones from 1851 to 2010 (and other frequently requested hurricane facts) (NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS NHC-6). National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. p. 47. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  6. ^ Staff Writer (September 12, 1919). "27 Lives Lost When Ward Liner Corydon Founders In Storm". The Hartford Courant.  Viewed March 14, 2010.
  7. ^ Staff Writer (September 8, 1919). "Two Schooners Lost With All On Board". The Lewiston Daily Sun. p. 35. Retrieved March 14, 2010. 
  8. ^ Staff Writer (September 9, 1919). "Lifeboats Sink As Ship Founders In Bahama Gale". The Gazette Times. p. 2. Retrieved March 14, 2010. 
  9. ^ Richard W. Gray. A Tornado Within a Hurricane Area. Retrieved on 2008-09-30.
  10. ^ a b Ellis, Michael J. (1988). The Hurricane Almanac. Corpus Christi: Hurricane Publications, Inc., ISBN 0-9618707-1-0
  11. ^ a b David M. Roth (2010-01-17). "Texas Hurricane History". Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. pp. 38–39. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 

External links[edit]