1961 Atlantic hurricane season
|Season summary map|
|First system formed||July 20, 1961|
|Last system 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 featured the highest number of major hurricanes – Category 3 or higher on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale – since 1950. The season officially began on June 15, and lasted until November 15. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. It was an average season, with a total of 11 named storms. The first system, Hurricane Anna, developed in the eastern Caribbean Sea near the Windward Islands on July 20. It brought minor damage to the islands, as well as wind and flood impacts to Central America after striking Belize as a hurricane.[nb 1] Anna caused one death and about $300,000 (1961 USD)[nb 2] in damage. Activity went dormant for nearly a month and a half, until Hurricane Betsy developed on September 2. Betsy peaked as a Category 4 hurricane, but remained at sea and caused no impact.
One of the most significant storms of the season was Hurricane Carla, which peaked as a Category 5 hurricane, before weakening slightly and striking Texas. Carla caused 43 deaths and approximately $325.74 million in damage. Hurricane Debbie was a Category 3 storm that existed in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Early in its duration, unsettled weather from Debbie in Cape Verde resulted in a plane crash that killed 60 people. Debbie then brushed Ireland as a Category 1 hurricane shortly before becoming extratropical. The next storm, Hurricane Esther, threatened to strike New England as a major hurricane, but rapidly weakened and made landfall in Massachusetts as only a tropical storm. Impact was generally minor, with about $6 million in damage and seven deaths, all of which from a United States Navy plane crash. An unnamed tropical storm and Hurricane Frances caused minimal impact on land. In mid-October, Tropical Storm Gerda brought flooding to Jamaica and eastern Cuba, resulting in a total of twelve deaths.
Another significant storm was Hurricane Hattie, a late-season Category 5 hurricane that struck Belize. Hattie caused 319 confirmed fatalities and about $60.3 million in damage. Destruction was so severe in Belize that the government had to relocate inland to a new city, Belmopan. The remnants of Hattie may have contributed to the development of Tropical Storm Simone in the eastern Pacific Ocean. In early November, the depression that would later strengthen into Hurricane Jenny brought light rainfall to Puerto Rico. The final storm, Tropical Storm Inga, dissipated on November 8, after causing no impact on land. On September 11, three hurricanes existed simultaneously – Betsy, Carla, and Debbie – the most on a single day in the Atlantic basin since 1893 and until 1998. Collectively, the storms of the 1961 Atlantic hurricane season caused about $391 million in damage and at least 345 fatalities.
- 1 Season summary
- 2 Storms
- 3 Other storms
- 4 Season effects
- 5 Storm names
- 6 See also
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||July 20 – July 24|
|Peak intensity||115 mph (185 km/h) (1-min) 976 mbar (hPa)|
An easterly wave developed into Tropical Storm Anna in the vicinity of the Windward Islands on July 20. The storm moved westward across the Caribbean Sea. Favorable environmental conditions allowed Anna to reach hurricane intensity late on July 20. Early on the following day, the storm strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane. Intensification continued, and later on July 21, Anna became a major hurricane. After attaining peak intensity on July 22, the hurricane slightly weakened while brushing the northern coast of Honduras. Further weakening occurred; when Anna made landfall in landfall in Belize on July 24, winds decreased to 80 mph (130 km/h). Anna rapidly weakened over land and dissipated later that day.
As a developing tropical cyclone over the Windward Islands, Anna produced strong winds over Grenada, though damage was limited to some crops, trees, and telephone poles. Other islands experienced gusty winds, but no damage. Passing just north of Venezuela, the hurricane produced strong winds over the country, peaking as high as 70 mph (115 km/h). Strong winds caused widespread damage in northern Honduras. Throughout the country, at least 36 homes were destroyed and 228 were damaged. Severe damage in the Gracias a Dios Department left hundreds of people homeless. Additionally, high winds toppled approximately 10,000 coconut trees. Overall, Anna caused one fatality and $300,000 in damage, primarily in Central America.
|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 northwestward, 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 sustained winds. However, on September 5, a shortwave forced the low northeastward, allowing for Betsy to strengthen further.
Later on September 5, 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 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.
|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, several tornadoes spawned in the state caused notable impacts, with the most destructive tornado 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.
|Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Duration||September 6 – September 16|
|Peak intensity||120 mph (195 km/h) (1-min) ≤ 970 mbar (hPa)|
A tropical disturbance that was first identified in late August over Central Africa. It was estimated to have become a tropical storm on September 6. Later that day, Debbie passed through the southern Cape Verde Islands as a strong tropical storm or minimal hurricane, resulting in a plane crash that killed 60 people. Once clear of the islands, data on the storm became sparse, and the status of Debbie was uncertain over the following several days as it tracked west-northwestward and later northward. It was not until a commercial airliner intercepted the storm on September 10 that its location was certain. The following day, Debbie intensified and reached its peak intensity as a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 120 mph (195 km/h). The hurricane gradually slowed its forward motion and weakened. By September 13, Debbie's motion became influenced by the Westerlies, causing the system to accelerate east-northeastward.
The system passed over the western Azores as a minimal hurricane on September 15. At this point, there is uncertainty as to the structure of Debbie, whether it transitioned into an extratropical cyclone or maintained identity as a tropical system. Regardless, the system deepened as it neared the British Isles, skirting the coast of Western Ireland on September 16. Shortly thereafter, the system was confirmed to have become extratropical as it continued towards the northeast. In Ireland, Debbie brought record winds to much of the island, with a peak gust of 114 mph (183 km/h) measured just offshore. Widespread damage and disruption occurred, downing tens of thousands of trees and power lines. Countless structures sustained varying degrees of damage, with many smaller buildings destroyed. Agriculture experienced extensive losses to barley, corn and wheat crops. Throughout Ireland, Debbie killed 18 people, with 12 in the Ireland and six in Northern Ireland. It caused $40–50 million in damage in the Republic and at least £1.5 million (US$4 million) in Northern Ireland. The storm also battered parts of Great Britain with winds in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h).
|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, $47.4 million 2014 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)|
Television Infrared Observation Satellite (TIROS) III imagery indicated a vortex east of the Bahamas between September 9 and September 12. A tropical depression formed at 1200 UTC on September 12, after TIROS revealed a surface circulation. The depression tracked northward and intensified into a tropical storm while located offshore North Carolina. Early on September 14, it made landfall in the state near Wilmington, North Carolina with winds of 40 mph (65 km/h). The storm curved northeastward and accelerated across the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and New Brunswick. Upon reaching the Gulf of Saint Lawrence on September 15, it weakened to a tropical depression and subsequently dissipated.
Impact from the storm was generally minor. In North Carolina, 3.12 inches (79 mm) of precipitation fell at Williamston. Strong winds lashed Rhode Island, with winds as high as 70 mph (110 km/h) in Point Judith. About 29,000 homes were left without electricity, while 1,200 lost telephone service. Hundreds of small crafts and a few ferries and barges were swamped or sank. Hurricane force wind gusts in Massachusetts felled trees, electrical wires, and TV antennas. Some roads in the southeastern portion of the state were blocked by fallen trees. Similar impact was reported in Maine. Additionally, 2 homes were damaged by falling trees. One person was injured by a flying wooden plank.
|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)|
A westward moving tropical wave developed into a tropical depression on October 16, while located just offshore the south coast of Jamaica. Shortly thereafter, the depression made landfall in Clarendon Parish. It continued northward and made another landfall near Santa Cruz del Sur, Cuba on October 17. The depression brought heavy rainfall to Jamaica and eastern Cuba. In the former, flooding caused damage to roads and forced many to evacuate their homes in western Kingston. Five fatalities were reported in Jamaica. Flooding in eastern Cuba resulted in 7 deaths. After striking Cuba, the depression emerged into the Atlantic and then crossed the Bahamas.
The depression accelerated to the north-northeast and finally began to strengthen. Late on October 19, the depression reached tropical storm intensity and was named Gerda, while located between Bermuda and the East Coast of the United States. The storm curved northeastward on October 20, while peaking with winds of 70 mph (110 km/h). However, a Texas Tower offshore Massachusetts observed hurricane force winds. At 0000 UTC on October 21, Gerda transitioned into an extratropical cyclone, while situated about 100 miles (160 km) east-southeast of Barrington, Nova Scotia. Damage from the storm in New England was "about the same as that from a typical wintertime northeaster".
|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.
|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)|
Early on November 4, the SS Navigator encountered a weather system in the Gulf of Mexico that produced northwesterly winds of 81 to 92 mph (130 to 148 km/h). Reconnaissance aircraft data indicated that Tropical Storm Inga developed at 0000 UTC on November 5, while located about 145 miles (233 km) northeast of Veracruz. A strong high pressure system and a cold front entering the Gulf of Mexico from Texas caused the storm to move southward and then southeastward. Inga slowly strengthened and peaked as a 70 mph (110 km/h) tropical storm early on November 7. Thereafter, the storm became nearly stationary and began weakening. By 1200 UTC on November 8, Inga dissipated in the Bay of Campeche, as reconnaissance aircraft found no closed circulation.
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.
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 wind 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|
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.
- 1961 Pacific hurricane season
- 1961 Pacific typhoon season
- 1961 North Indian Ocean cyclone season
- List of Atlantic hurricanes
- List of Atlantic hurricane seasons
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- Retired Hurricane Names Since 1954, National Hurricane Center, retrieved December 2, 2008