Great Havana Hurricane of 1846
|Formed||October 6, 1846|
|Dissipated||October 14, 1846|
|Lowest pressure||902 mbar (hPa); 26.64 inHg|
|Damage||$200,000 (1846 USD)|
|Areas affected||Cuba, Florida, Georgia, Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Atlantic Canada|
|Part of the 1846 Atlantic hurricane season|
The Great Havana Hurricane of 1846 was a powerful late season hurricane that caused extensive damage and up to 255 deaths as it moved across Cuba, Florida, and the eastern United States before dissipating over the Canadian Maritimes.
First reported on October 6, the hurricane moved through the Caribbean Sea. It followed a typical track for an Atlantic hurricane in October, moving across southwestern Cuba on October 11 with winds exceeding 215 km/h (134 mph) and central pressure of 940 mbar (28 inHg). It turned northward and struck the Florida Keys as a very intense (possibly Category 5) hurricane, producing a minimum pressure of 938 mbar.
The storm then paralleled the Florida west coast. Its exact track is unknown because no reports exist from Tampa and Saint Augustine. Modern historians estimate the hurricane hit near Cedar Key during the early hours of October 12 and then moved rapidly to the northeast, remaining inland along the East Coast of the United States. It returned to sea near Boston, Massachusetts, on October 14, and likely became extratropical in the following days.
The damage from the storm is mostly unknown but likely severe. Key West reportedly had $200,000 (1846 USD) in damage.
The hurricane wrecked 85 merchant ships with 30-foot (9.1 m) seas. Nearly every building in Havana was demolished and coastal villages were wiped out in a matter of hours. Some disputed reports say 600 people died; the official death toll in Cuba is 163.
In the Florida Keys, 20 boats and ships were sunk,dismasted or grounded by the storm. The twin lighthouses at Sand Key and Key West collapsed, drowning people who had taken refuge in them. The large naval hospital in Key West was severely damaged, and 594 of the island's 600 buildings were either damaged or destroyed. A 5-foot (1.5 m) storm surge, combined with very strong winds of Category 4 to possibly Category 5 intensity caused about $200,000 dollars (1846 USD) in damage in Key West ($3.96 million 2005 USD). A total of 50 people were reported killed in Key West. The surge washed many corpses out of the cemetery that was located on the beach on the south side of the island. The following year the cemetery was moved to a higher point on the island near Solares Hill. Other parts of the Florida Keys experienced storm surge of up to 12 ft (3.7 m), above most of the islands' highest points.
In Cedar Key where landfall likely occurred, hundreds of oak trees were toppled and houses were gutted.
Reportedly, 40 people in mainland Florida lost their lives.
Southeast United States
A schooner was lost in Charleston Harbor. The city had minimal structural damage. As it passed, the hurricane's central pressure was less than 985 mbar (29.1 inHg), and rainfall reached 4.5 inches (110 mm). Tides were reportedly about 2 feet (61 cm) above normal.
Mid-Atlantic and Northeast
One hundred yards of the Battery in New York City was swept away by pounding surf. Widespread structural damage and heavy rainfall were experienced throughout the Northeastern United States as the hurricane was winding down.
In Hartford, Connecticut, hurricane-force winds destroyed a trestle bridge. Numerous apple orchards in Massachusetts were reported ruined. No deaths are attributed to the hurricane's passage over New England.
The Great Havana Hurricane was likely a Category 5 hurricane; however, confirming its intensity would require the accuracy of modern instruments. The earliest officially recorded Category 5 hurricane, the 1924 Cuba hurricane did not occur for decades.
One estimate shows a pressure of 902 mbar (26.6 inHg) as the storm crossed the Florida Keys, which would make it the second-strongest U.S. hurricane landfall on record, behind only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, also in the Florida Keys. In addition, if the pressure estimate is accurate, the hurricane would be tied with Hurricane Katrina as the sixth-most-intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, and easily the most intense hurricane of the 19th century. No Atlantic storm would officially reach or surpass 902 mbar (26.6 inHg) until the Labor Day storm in 1935, nearly 90 years later.
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- List of Atlantic hurricanes
- List of New England hurricanes
- List of New Jersey hurricanes
- Partagas, Jose Fernandez (1993). "Impact on Hurricane History of a Revised Lowest Pressure at Havana (Cuba) During the October 11, 1846 Hurricane". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Ho, F. P. "The Key West Hurricane of 1846 - October 11–12 - Part 1". Historical Hurricane Information Tool. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Ho, F. P. "Storm 2 - 1846 - Possible Track". Historical Hurricane Information Tool. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Ludlum, David. "The Great Hurricane of 1846 - October 13–14 - Part III". Historical Hurricane Information Tool. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Ludlum, David. "The Key West Hurricane of 1846 - October 11–12 - Part I". Historical Hurricane Information Tool. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Roth, David M. "Early Nineteenth Century". Hydrological Prediction Center. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Swanson, Gail and Wilkinson, Jerry. "Florida Keys Hurricanes of the Last Millennium". Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys. Retrieved 2008-03-23.
- Longshore, David (1998). "Great Havana Hurricane of 1846". In Longshore, David. Encyclopedia of Hurricanes, Typhoons and Cyclones. New York: Facts on File. pp. 150–151.
- Early 19th Century U.S. Hurricanes Information