1933 Treasure Coast hurricane
|Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)|
|Formed||August 31, 1933|
|Dissipated||September 7, 1933|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained: 140 mph (220 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||≤ 945 mbar (hPa); 27.91 inHg|
|Damage||$3 million (1933 USD)|
|Areas affected||The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, The Carolinas|
|Part of the 1933 Atlantic hurricane season|
The 1933 Treasure Coast hurricane was the second-most intense tropical cyclone to strike the United States during the active 1933 Atlantic hurricane season. The eleventh tropical storm, fifth hurricane, and the third major hurricane of the season, it formed east-northeast of the Leeward Islands on August 31. The tropical storm moved rapidly west-northwestward, steadily intensifying to a hurricane. It acquired peak winds of 140 mph (220 km/h) and passed over portions of the Bahamas on September 3, including Eleuthera. Subsequently, it weakened and made landfall at Jupiter, Florida, early on September 4 with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h). The hurricane moved across the state, passing near Tampa before moving into Georgia and dissipating.
The hurricane produced severe damage from the Bahamas to the Florida peninsula. Eleuthera and Harbour Island, encountering the center of the hurricane, incurred major damage to homes and properties. Additionally, buildings were unroofed and wharves were destroyed. In Florida, the strong winds of the cyclone blew buildings off their foundations, and numerous trees were prostrated in citrus groves. The Treasure Coast region received the most extensive destruction, and Stuart, Jupiter, and Fort Pierce were heavily damaged. The storm caused $3 million in damage (1933 USD) after damaging or destroying 6,848 homes. Inland, the cyclone weakened rapidly but produced prodigious amounts of rain, causing a dam to collapse near Tampa. Unusually, the major hurricane made landfall within 24 hours of another major hurricane hitting South Texas, the only such occurrence in U.S. history.
The origins of the hurricane were from a tropical wave that possibly spawned a tropical depression on August 27, although there was minimal data over the next few days as it tracked to the west-northwest. On August 31, a nearby ship reported gale force winds, which indicated that a tropical storm had developed to the east-northeast of the Lesser Antilles. Based on continuity, it is estimated the storm attained hurricane status later that day. Moving quickly to the west-northwest, the storm passed north of the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico. Early on September 2, a ship called the "Gulfwing" reported a barometric pressure of 978 mbar (28.9 inHg), which confirmed that the storm attained hurricane status. After passing north of the Turks and Caicos islands, the hurricane struck Eleuthera and Harbour Island in the Bahamas on September 3, the latter at 1100 UTC. A station on the latter island reported a pressure of 945 mbar (27.9 inHg) during the 30 minute passage of the eye. Based on the pressure and the small size of the storm, it is estimated the hurricane struck Harbour Island with peak winds of 140 mph (220 km/h), making it the equivalent of a modern Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Interpolation suggested that the storm reached major hurricane status, or Category 3 intensity, on September 2.
The hurricane initially followed the course of another hurricane that passed through the area in late August, which ultimately struck Cuba and Texas. This hurricane instead maintained a general west-northwest track. After moving through the northern Bahamas, the hurricane weakened slightly before making landfall at Jupiter, Florida at 0500 UTC on September 4. A station there reported a pressure of 945 mbar (27.9 inHg) during a 40 minute period of the eye's passage; this suggested a landfall intensity of 125 mph (205 km/h). At the time, the radius of maximum winds was 15 mi (24 km), which was smaller than average. After landfall, the hurricane weakened rapidly while crossing the state. It briefly emerged into the Gulf of Mexico as a tropical storm early on September 5. A few hours later while continuing to the northwest, it made another landfall north of Tampa with winds of about 65 mph (100 km/h). Turning to the north, the storm slowly weakened as it crossed into Georgia, dissipating on September 7 near Augusta.
Preparations and impact
While the storm was near peak intensity on September 3, the Weather Bureau issued hurricane warnings from Miami to Melbourne, Florida, with storm warnings extending northward to Jacksonville. Later that day, storm warnings, were issued from Key West to Cedar Key. About 2,500 people evacuated by train from areas around Lake Okeechobee.
The powerful hurricane moved over or near several islands in the Bahamas. Winds on Spanish Wells and Harbour Island were both estimated at around 140 mph (220 km/h). Winds reached 110 mph (180 km/h) at Governor's Harbour. The storm was farther away from Nassau, where winds reached 35 mph (56 km/h). The hurricane damaged a lumber mill on Abaco, washing away a dock. Heavy damage occurred on Harbour Island, including to several roofs, the walls of government buildings, and the water system. The hurricane destroyed 4 churches and 37 houses, leaving 100 people homeless. A 1.5 mi (2.4 km) road on Eleuthera was destroyed. Several islands sustained damage to farms, including the total loss of various fruit trees on Russell Island. Despite Category 4 winds on Spanish Wells, only five houses were destroyed, although most of the remaining dwellings lost their roofs. Collectively between North Point, James Cistern, and Gregory Town on Eleuthera, the storm destroyed 55 houses and damaged many others. On Grand Bahama, where a 9 to 12 ft (2.7 to 3.7 m) storm surge was reported, half of the houses were destroyed, as were 13 boats and 2 planes, and most docks were wrecked.
When the storm moved ashore in Florida, winds reached 125 mph (201 km/h) in Jupiter and 80 mph (130 km/h) in West Palm Beach. Winds were not as strong farther from the center; 40 to 45 mph (64 to 72 km/h) winds were observed in Miami to the south, Titusville to the north, and Tampa on the west coast. The hurricane dropped heavy rainfall along its path, peaking at 17.8 in (450 mm) in Clermont. Damage was heaviest near Jupiter at Olympia Beach, where strong winds wrecked houses and trees. At West Palm Beach, the winds shattered many windows, while at Stuart, 75% of the roofs in the town were blown away or severely damaged, including the third floor of the local newspaper building. Between Jupiter and Fort Pierce, the storm knocked down power and telegraph lines. In the latter city, high waves washed out a portion of the causeway. Crop damage was worst along the Indian River Lagoon; several farms in Stuart experienced total losses, and statewide, 16% of the citrus crop, or 4 million boxes, were destroyed. Many chicken coops in Stuart were destroyed, and the local chicken population was scattered and dispersed as far as Indiantown. Across southeastern Florida, the hurricane damaged 6,465 houses and destroyed another 383, causing over $3 million in damage. One person was killed when his shack blew down, a brakeman died after 7 railcars derailed, and a child was killed by airborne debris.
High rainfall caused flooding across Florida, notably near Tampa where waters reached 9 ft (2.7 m) deep. High rainfall of over 7 in (180 mm) caused a dam operated by Tampa Electric Co. to break 3 mi (4.8 km) northeast of Tampa along the Hillsborough River. The break resulted in severe local damage, flooding portions of Sulphur Springs. Workers attempted to save the dam with sandbags, and after the break, most residents in the area were warned of the approaching flood. Over 50 homes were flooded, forcing about 150 people to evacuate. Outside Florida, the storm produced winds of 48 and 51 mph (78 and 81 km/h) in Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, respectively. In the latter city, the storm spawned a tornado, which caused about $10,000 in property damage. Heavy rainfall occurred along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts, reaching over 12 in (300 mm). Light rainfall also extended into North Carolina.
In the Bahamas after the storm, a boat sailed from Nassau to deliver food and building materials to Eleuthera.
After the storm, the National Guard offered shelters for at least 400 homeless residents in Stuart. Of the 7,900 families adversely affected by the hurricane, 4,325 required assistance from the American Red Cross. Farmers in Texas, also affected by a major hurricane, requested growers in Florida wait 15 days so they could sell their citrus crop that fell. The damaged dam near Tampa initially resulted in waters from the Hillsborough River being pumped into the city's water treatment plant, and a new dam was eventually built in 1944.
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