1951 Atlantic hurricane season
|Season summary map|
|First system formed||May 15, 1951|
|Last system dissipated||October 20, 1951|
|Strongest storm||Easy – 160 mph (260 km/h)|
|Major hurricanes (Cat. 3+)||5|
|Total fatalities||276+ overall|
|Total damage||$80 million (1951 USD)|
|Atlantic hurricane seasons
1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953
The 1951 Atlantic hurricane season was the first hurricane season in which tropical cyclones were officially named by the United States Weather Bureau. The season officially started on June 15, when the United States Weather Bureau began its daily monitoring for tropical cyclone activity; the season officially ended on November 15. It was the first year since 1937 in which no hurricanes made landfall on the United States; as Hurricane How was the only tropical storm to hit the nation, the season had the least tropical cyclone damage in the United States since the 1939 season. Like the 1950 season, names from the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet were used to name storms this season.
The first hurricane of the season, Able, was the earliest major hurricane in Atlantic hurricane history. It formed on May 15 and executed a counterclockwise loop over the Bahamas; later it brushed the North Carolina coastline. Hurricane Charlie was a powerful hurricane that struck Jamaica, killing hundreds and becoming the worst disaster in over 50 years. The hurricane later struck Mexico twice, producing deadly flooding outside of Tampico, Tamaulipas. The strongest hurricane, Easy, spent its duration over the open Atlantic Ocean, briefly threatening Bermuda. It interacted with Hurricane Fox, marking the first known instance of a hurricane affecting another's path.
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||May 15 – May 23|
|Peak intensity||115 mph (185 km/h) (1-min) 973 mbar (hPa)|
The origins of the first hurricane of the season were from a trough that exited the East Coast of the United States on May 12. A low pressure area developed on May 14, and the next day it developed into a tropical cyclone about 300 miles (480 km) south of Bermuda. It formed beneath an upper-level low, and initially was not fully tropical. The depression followed the low, initially toward the northwest and later the southwest. Moving over the Gulf Stream, the depression intensified into Tropical Storm Able on May 16. The storm turned to the south, and Hurricane Hunters reported that Able strengthened to hurricane status on May 17 off the coast of Florida.
The outer rainbands of Able produced light rainfall and high seas along the Florida coastline. It later moved through the Bahamas, where it produced hurricane force winds. The hurricane later turned to the north, gradually strengthening to peak winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) on May 21. Shortly thereafter, Able passed about 70 miles (110 km) east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina before turning east and rapidly weakening. Along the coast, the hurricane produced high tides but little damage. After weakening to a tropical storm, Able transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on May 23, before dissipating the next day.
With peak winds of 115 mph (185 km/h), Able became and remains the earliest major hurricane on record. Such a storm is a Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, a system developed and introduced in the 1970s. Able was also the strongest hurricane outside of the current hurricane season (June 1 through November 30). The hurricane was one of four North Atlantic hurricanes on record to exist during the month of May, the others occurring in 1889, 1908, and 1970.
Tropical Storm Baker
|Tropical storm (SSHWS)|
|Duration||August 2 – August 5|
|Peak intensity||60 mph (95 km/h) (1-min) 999 mbar (hPa)|
On August 2, an easterly wave spawned a tropical depression about 680 miles (1095 km) northeast of Barbuda in the Lesser Antilles. It moved northwestward, quickly strengthening into Tropical Storm Baker. Early on August 3, the storm attained peak winds of 60 mph (95 km/h), and the next day passed about 275 mi (443 km) east of Bermuda. At its peak intensity, the gale force winds extended 100 miles (160 km) to the north of the center. On August 5, Baker turned to the northeast and began a weakening trend, dissipating later that day. It never affected land.
|Category 4 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||August 12 – August 23|
|Peak intensity||130 mph (215 km/h) (1-min) 964 mbar (hPa)|
The third tropical cyclone of the season developed on August 12 from a tropical wave, 930 miles (1,495 km) east-southeast of Barbados. After a few days without further development, the system intensified into Tropical Storm Charlie on August 15, and subsequently crossed through the Lesser Antilles. Shortly after entering the Caribbean Sea, the storm intensified to hurricane status. Passing south of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, Charlie struck south of Kingston, Jamaica late on August 17 with winds of 110 mph (175 km/h). On the island, the hurricane dropped heavy rainfall up to 17 in (430 mm). The combination of strong winds and the rains left around $50 million (1951 USD, $380 million 2005 USD) in crop and property damage. Across the country there were 152 deaths, 2,000 injuries, and 25,000 people left homeless; as a result, it was considered the worst disaster in the country in the first half of the 20th century.
After exiting Jamaica, Charlie passed south of the Cayman Islands with 105 mph (165 km/h) sustained winds. Grand Cayman reported gusts of 92 mph (150 km/h). Later, it attained major hurricane status on August 19. The hurricane peaked at 135 mph (215 km/h) just before hitting near Cozumel. The strong winds destroyed 70% of the crops along its path, although no deaths were reported in the Yucatán Peninsula. Several homes were wrecked in the region. Charlie weakened rapidly over land, but once over the Gulf of Mexico it re-intensified to its previous peak intensity on August 22. Shortly thereafter it struck Tampico, and it dissipated on August 23. The hurricane dropped heavy rainfall in the region, flooding rivers and causing dams to burst. Hundreds of people were killed in the Mexican mainland, and across Charlie's entire path, damage was estimated at over $75 million (1951 USD, $681 million 2014 USD). The outer fringes of the storm increased surf along the Texas coast.
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||August 27 – September 5|
|Peak intensity||115 mph (185 km/h) (1-min) 992 mbar (hPa)|
A tropical wave spawned a tropical depression on August 27 southwest of Cape Verde . It moved westward, eventually intensifying into a tropical storm on August 31. The next day, the storm was first observed by Hurricane Hunters, several hundred miles east of Barbados, and it was named "Dog". By that time, its winds were around 60 mph (95 km/h), and the storm continued intensifying as it approached the Lesser Antilles. On September 2, Dog attained hurricane status, and that day passed between Saint Lucia and Martinique into the Caribbean Sea. Soon after it reached peak winds of 115 mph (185 km/h), which it maintained for about 12 hours before beginning a steady weakening trend. On September 4, Dog weakened to tropical storm status to the south of Hispaniola, and the next day dissipated in the western Caribbean.
In northern Saint Lucia, the combination of flooding and high winds destroyed 70% of the banana crop. Two sailing vessels were destroyed, and another one damaged. Across the island, Hurricane Dog killed two people from drownings. Damage was heavier on Martinique, located on the north side of the storm. The hurricane's winds destroyed 1,000 homes and the roofs of several others. Downed trees blocked roads and disrupted power lines. The winds also destroyed 90% of the banana crop and 30% of the sugar cane. Throughout Martinique, Dog left $3 million in damage (1951 USD, $27.3 million 2014 USD) and killed five people from drownings. It was considered the "most violent storm" in Martinique in 20 years. Initially the hurricane was expected to strike Jamaica, prompting hurricane warnings for the country, as well as along the southern coast of Hispaniola. Jamaica was earlier struck by Hurricane Charlie a few weeks prior, and the threat from Dog prompted coastal evacuations and the closure of an airport. Ultimately, Dog dissipated and produced only light rainfall on the island.
|Category 5 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||September 2 – September 12|
|Peak intensity||160 mph (260 km/h) (1-min) 957 mbar (hPa)|
Hurricane Easy, the strongest of the season, originated as a tropical storm on September 2 between the Lesser Antilles and Cape Verde. It moved generally west-northwestward, intensifying to hurricane status on September 3, and to major hurricane strength two days later. During this period, Hurricane Hunters flew into the hurricane to monitor its progress, recording a minimum pressure of 957 mbar on September 6 to the north of the Lesser Antilles. The next day, an aircraft was unable to penetrate the center, estimating winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) south of the eye; this was Easy's peak intensity. This made Easy a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Subsequently, the hurricane turned to the north and began a steady weakening trend.
As the hurricane began to weaken, it interacted with the larger Hurricane Fox to the east; this was the first observed instance of a hurricane affecting another's path. Easy turned to the northeast, passing a short distance southeast of Bermuda on September 9 with winds of 110 mph (180 km/h). On the island, the hurricane produced winds of only 50 mph (80 km/h), which downed a few banana trees. Easy transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on September 12, still maintaining hurricane force winds. The remnants dissipated a day later over the northern Atlantic Ocean. In addition to affecting Bermuda, the strong winds of the hurricane damage a few ships along its path.
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||September 2 – September 10|
|Peak intensity||115 mph (185 km/h) (1-min)|
Around the same time as Easy was forming, a new tropical depression developed in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean. Moving generally westward, it passed south of the Cape Verde islands, strengthening into Tropical Storm Fox on September 4; by that time, its motion turned to the west-northwest. On September 5, Fox attained hurricane status, around the same time as it was first observed by ships. Two days later, Hurricane Hunters reported peak winds of 115 mph (185 km/h), making it a major hurricane. Around that time, Fox interacted with Hurricane Easy to its northwest. After maintaining peak winds for 18 hours, Fox began a steady weakening trend, accelerating to the north and northeast ahead of Easy and passing to the east of Bermuda. On September 10, Fox became extratropical between the Azores and Greenland in the far north Atlantic. It turned toward the north and dissipated on September 11 off the southwest coast of Iceland. Although a few ships were affected by the hurricane's winds, there were no reports of any damage.
Tropical Storm George
|Tropical storm (SSHWS)|
|Duration||September 20 – September 21|
|Peak intensity||60 mph (95 km/h) (1-min) 999 mbar (hPa)|
Tropical Storm George developed in the Bay of Campeche on September 20. Moving west-northwestward, it quickly attained peak winds of 60 mph (95 km/h), as reported by the Hurricane Hunters. After weakening, George made landfall in Mexico about 55 mi (90 km) south of Tampico, Tamaulipas as a minimal tropical storm. Before it moved ashore, the storm spread rainfall along the coast and increased waves, causing one drowning death. George quickly dissipated upon making landfall, and there were no reports of damage.
|Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||September 28 – October 6|
|Peak intensity||110 mph (175 km/h) (1-min) 963  mbar (hPa)|
An easterly wave spawned a tropical depression in the western Caribbean Sea on September 28. It moved north-northwestward for several days before turning eastward in the central Gulf of Mexico. Based on Hurricane Hunter reports, the depression intensified into Tropical Storm How on October 1, and the next day it crossed southern Florida just below hurricane status. The storm was not well-organized as it crossed the state, and its strongest winds were confined to squalls in the Florida Keys and the southeast coast. Wind damage was minor, although heavy rainfall was reported, peaking at 15.7 inches (40 cm) near where it moved ashore. The precipitation caused significant street flooding, while about 7,000 acres (28 km2) of tomato and bean fields were deluged.
The storm emerged into the Atlantic Ocean near Vero Beach, quickly intensifying to hurricane strength by October 3. Turning northeastward, How reached peak winds of 110 mph (180 km/h) on October 4 as it passed near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Along the coast, the hurricane produced high tides and minor damage. Subsequently the hurricane began a slow weakening trend. It passed southeast of Cape Cod before turning more to the east-northeast, causing road closures due to high tides. Offshore, the hurricane sank a ship, killing 17 people. How became an extratropical storm on October 7, and the next day dissipated in the far northern Atlantic. Overall, Hurricane How caused about $2 million (1951 USD, $18.2 million 2014 USD) in damage.
|Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||October 12 – October 17|
|Peak intensity||80 mph (130 km/h) (1-min) 997 mbar (hPa)|
A tropical depression formed about 285 mi (460 km) south of Jamaica on October 12. A small system, it moved northwestward and intensified into Tropical Storm Item on October 13. It turned toward the northeast, and the next day attained hurricane status before moving through the Cayman Islands. Concurrently, the Hurricane Hunters observed peak winds of 80 mph (130 km/h), which the hurricane maintained for 18 hours. A minimum pressure of 997 mbar was also recorded. On October 15, Item weakened below hurricane status as it turned to a west-northwest drift. Continuing a slow weakening trend, it passed just south of Isla de la Juventud before turning northwestward and paralleling the island's west coast. On October 17, Item struck western Cuba, and later that day dissipated in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico.
The threat of the hurricane prompted precautions to be made in portions of Cuba. Additionally, storm warnings were posted in the Florida Keys, southern mainland Florida, as well as the Bahamas. However, no damage was reported.
|Category 1 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||October 15 – October 20|
|Peak intensity||80 mph (130 km/h) (1-min) 990 mbar (hPa)|
The final tropical cyclone of the season formed on October 15 just north of the Bahamas. Given the name "Jig", it moved northeastward, quickly attaining hurricane status. Twelve hours after forming, the hurricane reached peak winds of 80 mph (130 km/h), which it maintained for 18 hours. On October 16, Jig began a slow weakening trend, weakening below hurricane force. The next day, it turned sharply westward, and on October 18 the storm made its closest approach to the southeastern United States while passing about 210 mi (340 km) east-southeast of Cape Hatteras. While offshore, the storm increased surf along the North Carolina and Virginia coastlines, prompting storm warnings. On October 19, Jig completed a counterclockwise loop over the western Atlantic. The next day it weakened below tropical storm force before dissipating about 230 mi (370 km) south of Bermuda.
These names were used to name storms during the 1951 Atlantic hurricane season. As this season had the same names and was less active than 1950, none of these names were used for the first time. Names that were not assigned are marked in gray.
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- Staff Writer (1951-06-15). "Hurricane Warning System to Begin Tonight". The News and Courier. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- Staff Writer (1951-11-15). "Hurricane Season Ends, Said Mildest". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
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- Chris Landsea (2007). "Subject: B1) How are tropical cyclones named?". Hurricane Research Division. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Paul Moore and Walter Davis (1951). "A Preseason Hurricane of Subtropical Origin". Weather Bureau Office. Retrieved 2007-02-14.
- United Press (1951-05-18). "Hurricane Hits Florida Coast". Retrieved 2007-02-14.
- Staff Writer (1951-05-21). "Drought Spreads Into Southland". Ellensburg Daily Record. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- National Hurricane Center; Hurricane Research Division (April 1, 2014). "Atlantic hurricane best track (HURDAT version 2)". United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Jack Williams (May 17, 2005). "Hurricane scale invented to communicate storm danger". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
- Neil Dorst (2009). "Subject: G1) When is hurricane season?". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Archived from the original on 5 April 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- Staff Writer (1951-08-04). "Tropical Storm Rages off Bermuda". Toledo Blade. United Press International. Retrieved 2011-01-03.
- Staff Writer (1951-08-20). "Hurricane "Charlie" Heads Towards Mexico". Valley Morning Star.
- Staff Writer (1951-08-23). "Rain Cuts Heat Wave". The Galveston Daily News.
- Staff Writer (1951-09-03). "Hurricane Threatens Jamaica; Another Born". The News and Courier. Associated Press. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- Staff Writer (1951-09-04). "Hurricane Loses Velocity, Veers; Jamaica Spared". Sarasota Herald. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- Bella Kelly (1951-09-05). "Third Hurricane Found; Second One Rejuvenated". Miami Daily News. Retrieved 2011-01-09.
- Staff Writer (1951-09-10). "Two Hurricanes Duel at Sea". St. Petersburg Times. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- Staff Writer (1951-09-21). "Storm Hits Mexican Coast; Sweeps Inland". St. Joseph G. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- David M. Roth (2013-01-07). "The Climatology for Quantitative Rainfall (CLIQR) for tropical cyclones graphical user interface extended best track database". Weather Prediction Center. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
- Roth, David M; Hydrometeorological Prediction Center (2012). "Tropical Cyclone Rainfall in Florida". Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Point Maxima. United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service. Retrieved June 23, 2012.
- Associated Press (1951). "Storm Causes Widespread Damage in South Florida". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Associated Press (1951-10-05). "Hurricane Not Expected to Hit Main Hard". Lewiston Evening Journal. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- United States Coast Guard (1952). "Marine Board of Investigation; foundering MV Southern Isles in position 32º30'N 73º00'W, 5 October 1951, with loss of life". Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- Staff Writer (1951-10-15). "Small But Dangerous Hurricane Nears Cuba". Tri City Herald. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-01-08.
- Staff Writer (1951-10-16). "Eastern Coast Hit by Storm". Greensburg Daily Tribune. United Press International. Retrieved 2011-01-07.
- Gary Padgett (2007). "History of the Naming of Atlantic Tropical Cyclones, Part 1 - The Fabulous Fifties". Retrieved 2011-01-13.