1961 Atlantic hurricane season
|Season summary map|
|First storm formed||July 20, 1961|
|Last storm dissipated||November 8, 1961|
|Strongest storm||Hattie – 920 mbar (hPa) (27.18 inHg), 160 mph (260 km/h) (1-minute sustained)|
|Major hurricanes (Cat. 3+)||7|
|Total damage||$391.6 million (1961 USD)|
|Atlantic hurricane seasons
1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963
The 1961 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 15, 1961, and lasted until November 15, 1961. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. The season had seven major hurricanes, the second highest number on record, despite having only eight total hurricanes. It is also one of only six seasons to have two or more hurricanes reach Category 5 status on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.
The most notable hurricanes of the season were the two Category 5 hurricanes. Hurricane Carla struck Texas, killing 49 and causing $325 million (1961 USD, $2.5 billion 2013 USD) in damage. Hurricane Hattie devastated Belize, killing 200; Belize City was largely destroyed, leading to the eventual (1970) relocation of the national capital to Belmopan.
Hurricane Anna 
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||July 20 – July 24|
|Peak intensity||115 mph (185 km/h) (1-min) 976 mbar (hPa)|
On July 20, a tropical storm developed in the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) on July 20 over the Leeward Islands and was named Anna. Moving westward across the Caribbean Sea, an upper-level anticyclone provided favorable environmental conditions for Anna to qucikly intensify. Shortly after tropical cyclogenesis, the tropical storm attained hurricane intensity–the equivalent of a modern-day Category 1 hurricane. Intensification continued, and at 1200 UTC on July 22, Anna reached peak intensity as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h) and a minimum barometric pressure of 976 mbar (hPa; 28.82 inHg). The hurricane slightly weakened before brushing the northern coast of Honduras. Weakening continued, and Anna had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with winds of 80 mph (130 km/h) before making landfall on British Honduras on July 24. Moving into the Yucatán Peninsula, Anna rapidly weakened over land, and dissipated later the same day.
As a developing tropical cyclone over the Leeward Islands, Anna produced strong winds over Grenada, though damage was limited to some crops, trees, and telephone poles. Passing just north of Venezuela, the hurricane produced strong gusts over the country, peaking as high as 70 mph (115 km/h). However, no damage occurred as a result. Moderate damage occurred in northern Honduras. Strong winds caused widespread damage in Paplaya, where 215 homes and 5,000 coconut trees were damaged. In the country, damages totaled $300,000, and one death occurred. Upon Anna's first and only landfall in British Honduras, strong waves were reported at the coast, with moderate damage further inland. However, no deaths were reported there.
Hurricane Betsy 
|Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 2 – September 11|
|Peak intensity||140 mph (220 km/h) (1-min) 945 mbar (hPa)|
In early September, an easterly tropical wave was noted in the ITCZ. On September 2, the disturbance was analyzed to have attained tropical storm strength, after nearby ship reports indicated strong winds associated with anomalously low barometric pressures. Moving steadily northwestwards, Betsy gradually intensified under favorable conditions. By 1200 UTC the following day, the storm had strengthened to Category 1 hurricane intensity. Shortly after, a trough situated along 50°W steered Betsy to a more northerly course. Another low-pressure area later formed in the trough, perturbing the ridge to the north of Betsy for much of its initial stages, causing the hurricane's central pressure to rise, despite an increase in maximum sustained winds. However, on September 5, a shortwave forced the low northeastward, allowing for Betsy to strengthen further. Later that day, Betsy attained Category 4 hurricane strength, before subsequently reaching peak intensity the following day with winds of 140 mph (220 km/h) and a central pressure of 945 mbar (hPa; 27.91 inHg), based on reconnaissance flights that flew into the system. However, as a result of missing the short wave itself, the hurricane later weakened to a Category 2 hurricane before becoming nearly stationary north of Bermuda beginning on September 6, where it maintained its intensity for several days. A separate, minor trough was later able to move the system northeastwards on September 9. Moving into highly latitudes, Betsy began to weaken, degenerating back to Category 1 hurricane intensity on September 11 before transitioning into an extratropical cyclone the following day. Due to its distance from any landmasses, no damage was associated with the tropical cyclone.
Hurricane Carla 
|Category 5 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 3 – September 13|
|Peak intensity||175 mph (280 km/h) (1-min) 931 mbar (hPa)|
A tropical depression developed from an area of squally weather embedded within the ITCZ in the southwestern Caribbean Sea on September 3. Initially a tropical depression, it strengthened slowly while heading northwestward, and by September 5, the system was upgraded to Tropical Storm Carla. About 24 hours later, Carla was upgraded to a hurricane. Shortly thereafter, the storm curved northward while approaching the Yucatán Channel. Late on September 7, Carla entered the Gulf of Mexico while passing just northeast of the Yucatán Peninsula. By early on the following day, the storm became a major hurricane after reaching Category 3 intensity. Resuming its northwestward course, Carla continued intensification and on September 11, it was upgraded to a Category 5 hurricane. Later that day, Carla weakened slightly, but was still a large and intense hurricane when the storm made landfall near Port O'Connor, Texas. It weakened quickly inland and was reduced to a tropical storm on September 12. Heading generally northward, Carla transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on September 13, while centered over southern Oklahoma.
While crossing the Yucatán Channel, the outer bands of Carla brought gusty winds and severe local flooding in western Cuba and the Yucatán Peninsula, though no damage or fatalities were reported. Although initially considered a significant threat to Florida, the storm brought only light winds and small amounts of precipitation, reaching no more than 3.15 in (80 mm). In Texas, wind gusts as high as 170 mph (280 km/h) were observed in Port Lavaca. Additionally, severaltornadoes spawned in the state caused notable impacts, with the most destructive twister resulting in 200 buildings severely damaged, of which at least 60 were destroyed, and 8 deaths and 55 injuries. Throughout the state, Carla destroyed 1,915 homes, 568 farm buildings, and 415 other buildings. Additionally, 50,723 homes, 5,620 farm buildings, and 10,487 other buildings suffered damage. There were 34 fatalities and at least $300 million in losses in Texas alone. Several tornadoes also touched down in Louisiana, causing the destruction of 140 homes and 11 farms and other buildings, and major damage to 231 additional homes and 11 farm and other buildings. Minor to moderate damage was also reported to 748 homes and 75 farm and other buildings. Six deaths and $25 million in losses in Louisiana were attributed to Carla. Heavy rainfall occurred in several other states, especially in Kansas, where flash flooding severely damaged crops and drowned 5 people. Overall, Carla resulted in $325.74 million in losses and 43 fatalities.
Hurricane Debbie 
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 6 – September 16|
|Peak intensity||120 mph (195 km/h) (1-min) 970 mbar (hPa)|
The precursor to Hurricane Debbie was observed by a weather station in Cape Verde as well as a ship in that area. It was classified as Tropical Storm Debbie late on September 7 about 550 miles (885 km) from the island of Sal. Upon classification, the maximum sustained winds were already near hurricane force. Tropical Storm Debbie quickly strengthened into a hurricane, although there was initially no further strengthening. Operationally it was not upgraded until September 11, at which time Debbie turned to the north and quickly intensified into a category 3 hurricane. It attained peak winds of 120 mph (195 km/h), which it maintained for nearly 24 hours. It weakened as it turned to the east-northeast, and it accelerated toward the Azores. On September 15, Debbie passed through the island group, and that day it became extratropical, according to the National Hurricane Center's Preliminary Report. It remained classified as tropical until its dissipation in the best track, however. The storm turned to the northeast, moving over western Ireland before dissipating on September 16. The remnants crossed the coast of Norway and later entered Russia.
Hurricane Debbie caused about 11 fatalities in Ireland. It was estimated that Hurricane Debbie and its remnants also injured at least 50 people. A few locations reported winds in excess of 100 mph (161 km/h), including at Shannon Airport, Valentia, Ballykelly, Tiree and Snaefell. At Malin Head on the northernmost part of Ireland, the wind gusted to 113 mph (182 km/h). Strong winds were also reported from Bay of Biscay to location in northern Norway. Its remnants were also responsible for flooding in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Hurricane Esther 
|Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 10 – September 26|
|Peak intensity||145 mph (230 km/h) (1-min) 927 mbar (hPa)|
Hurricane Esther was a long-lasting hurricane and powerful Cape Verde-type hurricane that reached a peak intensity at Category 4 status. Esther threatened New England twice before hitting Maine as a tropical storm in late September. Esther was responsible for $6 million (1961 USD, $46.1 million 2013 USD) in damage, but no direct deaths were reported. However, Esther did cause seven indirect deaths when a Navy P5M aircraft crashed 120 miles (190 km) off the coast of Bermuda.
Unnamed Tropical Storm 
|Tropical storm (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 12 – September 15|
|Peak intensity||40 mph (65 km/h) (1-min) 994 mbar (hPa)|
A tropical depression formed over the Bahamas on September 12. It moved northward, and became a tropical storm just after hitting near Wilmington, North Carolina on September 14. It remained weak as it raced through the East Coast states, dissipating on September 15 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is notably one of the fastest moving tropical cyclones in history.
Hurricane Frances 
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 30 – October 9|
|Peak intensity||125 mph (205 km/h) (1-min) 948 mbar (hPa)|
A westward moving tropical wave organized into a tropical depression on September 30, east of the northern Lesser Antilles. It crossed the islands the next day as a tropical storm, and turned northward as a disorganized system. The lack of divergence at high levels disallowed further strengthening until later. Frances hit the eastern tip of Dominican Republic on October 3, and continued north and northeastward. It was able to finally organize on October 4, and Frances steadily strengthened to a 125 mph (205 km/h) major hurricane. It turned to the northwest and posed a threat to Maine, but it turned abrubtly right. Moving over cooler waters, Frances gradually lost intensity, and became extratropical on October 9 near Nova Scotia.
Tropical Storm Gerda 
|Tropical storm (SSHS)|
|Duration||October 16 – October 20|
|Peak intensity||70 mph (110 km/h) (1-min) 982 mbar (hPa)|
The precursor to Tropical Storm Gerda was a tropical wave that developed on October 16 in the Caribbean Sea. The tropical depression moved slowly northward, moving over Jamaica that night and Cuba the next day. Upper-level shear kept the depression disorganized, but when it reached the Atlantic, the shear relaxed somewhat, allowing the depression to become a tropical storm on October 19. Shortly after reaching a peak of 70 mph (110 km/h) on October 20 while racing to the northeast, Gerda became extratropical, retaining its circulation for two more days until dissipating. Gerda caused five deaths in Jamaica and seven in Cuba.
Hurricane Hattie 
|Category 5 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||October 27 – November 1|
|Peak intensity||160 mph (260 km/h) (1-min) 920 mbar (hPa)|
In late October, an area of low pressure persisted in the western Caribbean Sea for several days. On October 27, a ship and the airport on San Andres Island reported a closed center of circulation associated with the low. Thus, the system was classified as Tropical Storm Hattie starting on October 27. Moving towards the north and north-northeast, the storm quickly gained hurricane status and major hurricane status the following day. Hattie turned towards the west to the east of Jamaica, and strengthened into a Category 5 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 160 mph (260 km/h) before weakening to Category 4 status at landfall south of Belize City. Continuing southwest, the storm rapidly weakened over the mountainous terrain of Central America, dissipating on November 1. The remnants may have contributed to the development of Tropical Storm Simone in the East Pacific.
Hattie first affected regions in the southwestern Caribbean, producing hurricane force winds and causing one death on San Andres Island. It was initially forecast to continue north and strike Cuba, which prompted evacuations. Little effects were reported as Hattie turned to the west, although rainfall reached 11.5 in (290 mm) on Grand Cayman. The worst damage was in the country of Belize, which was known as British Honduras when Hattie struck. The former capital, Belize City, was flooded by a powerful storm surge and high waves and affected by strong winds. The territory governor estimated 70% of the buildings in the city were damaged, which left over 10,000 people homeless. The damage was severe enough that it prompted the government to relocate inland to a new city, Belmopan. In the territory, Hattie left about $60 million in damage and caused 307 deaths. The government estimated that Hattie was more damaging than a hurricane in 1931 that killed 2,000 people; the lower toll for Hattie was due to advanced warning. Elsewhere in Central America, the hurricane killed 11 people in Guatemala and 1 in Honduras.
Hurricane Jenny 
|Category 1 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||November 1 – November 8|
|Peak intensity||80 mph (130 km/h) (1-min) 974 mbar (hPa)|
An area of disturbed weather, in connection with the development of a cut-off low in the upper troposphere over Puerto Rico, became a tropical depression over the northeastern Lesser Antilles on November 1. After moving northeastward, the tropical depression moved eastward in response to an upper level trough. Subtropical in nature, it was able to withstand the shear, and, after looping back to the west, became a tropical storm on November 6. Later that day, Jenny became a hurricane, but as it turned northeastward, shear and cooler waters weakened it. Jenny became extratropical on November 8.
As a tropical depression, Jenny produced moderate rainfall in Puerto Rico, peaking at 4.97 in (126 mm).
Tropical Storm Inga 
|Tropical storm (SSHS)|
|Duration||November 5 – November 8|
|Peak intensity||70 mph (110 km/h) (1-min) 992 mbar (hPa)|
Tropical Storm Inga formed on November 5, the only time a tropical storm formed in the Gulf in the month of November. Inga's center moved westward, followed by a new center forming to the southeast. It drifted over the Bay of Campeche for the next few days, and after reaching a peak of 70 mph (110 km/h), dissipated on November 8.
Other storms 
A report from Mexico indicates that a tropical depression off the west coasts of Tabasco and Coatzacoalcos significantly impacted the northern side of Vera Cruz, Mexico with heavy rainfall on June 30.
Season effects 
This is a table of the storms in 1961 and their landfall(s), if any. Deaths in parentheses are additional and indirect (an example of an indirect death would be a traffic accident), but are still storm-related. Damage and deaths include totals while the storm was extratropical or a wave or low.
|Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale|
|Dates active||Storm category
at peak intensity
|Anna||July 19 – July 24||Category 3 hurricane||115||976||Northern Honduras (direct hit, no landfall)||July 23||105||0.3||1|
|Southern Belize||July 24||80|
|Betsy||September 2 – September 11||Category 4 hurricane||140||945||none||none||0|
|Carla||September 3 – September 15||Category 5 hurricane||175||931||Port Lavaca, Texas||September 11||150||325||46|
|Debbie||September 6 – September 16||Category 3 hurricane||120||970||County Mayo, Republic of Ireland||September 16||80||unknown||11|
|Esther||September 10 – September 27||Category 4 hurricane||145||927||Nantucket, Massachusetts||September 26||45||6||0 (7)|
|Cape Cod, Massachusetts||September 26||45|
|Portland, Maine||September 26||40|
|Six||September 12 – September 15||Tropical storm||40||994||Wilmington, North Carolina||September 14||35||minimal||0|
|Frances||September 30 – October 9||Category 3 hurricane||125||948||Martinique||October 1||50||minimal||0|
|La Altagracia Province, Dominican Republic||October 3||60|
|Gerda||October 16 – October 21||Tropical storm||70||982||Clarendon Parish, Jamaica||October 16||30||unknown||12|
|Camagüey Province, Cuba||October 17||35|
|Central Bahamas||October 18||35|
|Hattie||October 27 – November 1||Category 5 hurricane||160||920||Belize City, Belize||October 31||140||60.3||319|
|Jenny||November 1 – November 8||Category 1 hurricane||80||974||none||none||0|
|Inga||November 5 – November 8||Tropical storm||70||992||none||none||0|
|11 cyclones||July 19 – November 8||175||920||13 landfalls||391.6||390|
Storm names 
The following names were used for named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes) that formed in the North Atlantic in 1961. Storms were named Frances, Hattie, Inga and Jenny for the first time in 1961. Names that were not assigned are marked in gray.
The names Carla and Hattie were later retired.
See also 
- 1961 Pacific hurricane season
- 1961 Pacific typhoon season
- 1961 North Indian Ocean cyclone season
- List of Atlantic hurricanes
- List of Atlantic hurricane seasons
- Florence Morning News. Hurricane Season Here Today. Retrieved on June 6, 2008.
- United Press International. Hurricane "season" at end. Retrieved on June 6, 2008.
- Dunn (March 1962). "The Hurricane Season of 1961". NOAA. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
- National Hurricane Center; Hurricane Research Division; Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (February 15, 2013). "Atlantic hurricane best track (HURDAT version 2)". United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 18, 2013.
- National Hurricane Center. "Index of /archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1961/anna" (Report). United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved April 21, 2013.
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- "Hurricane Whips Cuba; Winds Batter Key West". The Miami News. September 7, 1961. p. 72. Retrieved January 8, 2013.
- Conner (September 7, 1961). "Hurricane Advisory Number 15 Carla" (GIF). Weather Bureau Office New Orleans, Louisiana (National Hurricane Center). http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1961/carla/public/tcp0710z.gif. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- Robert Orton (September 16, 1961). "Hurricane Carla in Texas September 8 to 13th, 1961" (GIF). Weather Bureau Office Galveston, Texas (National Hurricane Center): 1. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1961/carla/preloc/pshaus1.gif. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- Robert Orton (September 18, 1961). "List of known dead in Texas from Hurricane Carla as of September 18th" (GIF). Weather Bureau Office Galveston, Texas (National Hurricane Center). http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1961/carla/preloc/pshaus.gif. Retrieved January 11, 2013.
- "Hurricane Carla: September 4–14, 1961 (A Preliminary Report)". Weather Bureau (National Hurricane Center): 2. September 18, 1961. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1961/carla/prenhc/prelim2.gif. Retrieved January 10, 2013.
- Tropical Cyclone Rainfall for the Midwest (Report). College Park, Maryland: Weather Prediction Center. 2012. http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/tropical/rain/tcmidwest.html. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
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- Luther Hodges. "Storm Data and Unusual Weather Phenomena: December 1961" (PDF). United States Department of Commerce (National Climatic Data Center): 120. http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/orders/IPS-720CFCAF-9A08-4BFE-B893-78EF673B436E.pdf. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
- "Hurricane Debbie Preliminary Report". National Hurricane Center. 1961. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
- Hurley (September 7, 1961). "Tropical Storm Advisory Number 2". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
- Hurley (September 11, 1961). "Hurricane Debbie Advisory Number 14". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved March 22, 2010.
- David M. Roth (2009). "Hurricane Jenny – October 30 – November 2, 1961". Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. Retrieved September 2, 2009.
- Alavarez, Humberto Bravo, Rodolfo Sosa Echeverria, Pablo Sanchez Alavarez, and Arturo Butron Silva (2006-06-22). "Riesgo Quimico Asociado a Fenominos Hidrometeorologicos en el Estado de Verzacruz". Inundaciones 2005 en el Estado de Veracruz. Universidad Veracruzana. p. 317. Retrieved 2012-07-22.
- Retired Hurricane Names Since 1954, National Hurricane Center, retrieved December 2, 2008