|Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)|
|Hurricane Betsy in the Gulf of Mexico|
|Formed||August 27, 1965|
|Dissipated||September 12, 1965|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
155 mph (250 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||941 mbar (hPa); 27.79 inHg|
|Damage||$1.42 billion (1965 USD)|
|Areas affected||Windward Islands, Bahamas, south Florida and Florida Keys, Louisiana, inland Southern United States|
|Part of the 1965 Atlantic hurricane season|
Hurricane Betsy was the first tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Basin to cause at least $1 billion (1965 USD) in damage. The third tropical cyclone, second named storm, and second hurricane of the 1965 Atlantic hurricane season, Betsy developed on August 27 in an area of disturbed weather east of the Windward Islands. Forming as a tropical depression, it tracked generally west-northward until crossing on August 28. Thereafter, it tracked north-northwestward. By August 29, the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Betsy. The storm then rapidly intensified and became a Category 1 hurricane later that day. Betsy executed a small cyclonic loop on August 30 and August 31, followed by a turn to the west on September 1. Significant intensification resumed on September 1, and by the following day, Betsy was a Category 3 hurricane. By late on September 3, Betsy became a Category 4 hurricane. While northeast of the Bahamas, Betsy became tracking erratically and executed another cyclonic loop, starting on September 4. The storm steadily weakened, and was briefly downgraded to a Category 2 hurricane early on September 6. However, the storm promptly re-strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane. Betsy then tracked southwestward and then westward through the Bahamas. By early on September 8, Betsy made landfall on Key Largo as a Category 3 hurricane. Betsy entered into the Gulf of Mexico and re-strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane on September 9. While approaching the Gulf Coast of the United States, Betsy peaked slightly below the threshold for Category 5 hurricane status. However, further intensification was halted after Betsy made landfall in Grand Isle, Louisiana later on September 9. Once inland, the storm rapidly weakened, and became extratropical over Ohio less than four days later.
Although it passed through the Lesser Antilles, impact in that region is unknown. High winds in the Bahamas caused significant damage throughout the island chain.
A tropical disturbance was first tracked by TIROS satellite imagery on August 23. A reconnaissance aircraft flew into the system on August 23 and indicated that a tropical depression developed at 0000 UTC, while centered about 435 miles (700 km) north-northeast of Cayenne, French Guiana. The depression initially headed rapidly west-northwestward, toward the Lesser Antilles. At 1900 UTC on August 27, the first bulletin was issued on the depression, while it was located about 350 miles (560 km) east-southeast of Barbados. In the initial advisory by the San Juan Weather Bureau at 2200 UTC, the agency upgraded the depression to Tropical Storm Betsy, as sustained winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). This was prematurely however, as the depression did not reach tropical storm status until August 29. The storm began crossing the Lesser Antilles on August 28 and struck or passed very closely to several islands while heading north-northwestward, including Martinique, Dominica, Montserrat, and Nevis, as well as Saint Martin and Anguilla early on August 29. Later that day, the depression re-emerged into the open Atlantic Ocean and began to intensify.
At 1200 UTC on August 29, the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Betsy. Significant, but not rapid, intensification occurred during the next several hours. Sustained winds reached 75 mph (120 km/h), thus, the storm became a hurricane at 0000 UTC on August 30. However, the operational upgrade was not until 22 hours later, after reconnaissance aircraft and various island and radars stations reported hurricane force winds. Later on August 30, Betsy became nearly stationary and moved erratically, executing a cyclonic loop during the next two days. By September 1, the storm began moving westward and rapidly deepened. Between late on September 1 and September 2, Betsy intensified from a 80 mph (130 km/h) Category 1 to a 120 mph (195 km/h) Category 3 hurricane. Thereafter, the storm began moving northwestward and paralleled The Bahamas. Betsy strengthened further, becoming a Category 4 hurricane at 1800 UTC on September 3. Winds reached 140 mph (220 km/h) before the storm began weakening.
Late on September 4, the storm became nearly stationary again and dropped to Category 3 intensity by early on September 5. Betsy executing another cyclonic loop and briefly weakened to a Category 2 hurricane while curving southwestward on September 6. Six hours later, Betsy re-strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane. The storm decelerated again while approaching The Bahamas from the northeast, shortly before turning westward. It passed trough the Great Bahama Canyon and did not make landfall in The Bahamas. Although Betsy crossed the Gulf Stream, no further intensification occurred until the storm reach the Gulf of Mexico. Between 0600 and 1200 UTC on September 8, Betsy made landfall in Key Largo, Florida with winds of 125 mph (205 km/h). While crossing the Florida Keys, Betsy had a rather large eye, which spanned a 40 miles (64 km) radius. The storm continued westward across Florida Bay and entered the Gulf of Mexico by late on September 8.
Betsy resumed intensification over the eastern Gulf of Mexico and became a Category 4 hurricane again by early on September 9. Shortly thereafter, the storm turned northwestward and began approaching the Gulf Coast of the United States. While located 45 miles (72 km) south of the Mississippi River Delta at 0000 UTC on September 10, Betsy attained its peak intensity with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph (250 km/h) and a minimum barometric pressure of 941 mbar (27.8 inHg). A few hours later, the storm made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana at the same intensity.
The Baton Rouge weather bureau warned residents to get extra food that would not have to be cooked, or with little preparation. They also warned residents to store a water supply, have flashlights or other emergency light sources, and keep them at the ready. In addition, residents were told to fill the gasoline tanks of their cars, and check to make sure their battery powered radios had fully charged batteries in them, and to secure any small boats immediately.
Betsy was one of the most intense, deadly, and costly storms to make landfall in the United States. The storm killed 76 people in Louisiana. Betsy caused $1.42 billion in damage, which when adjusted for inflation amounts to $10–12 billion (2005 USD). Betsy was the first hurricane to cause damage in excess of $1 billion (based on damage at the time of the storm—many storms before then have inflation-adjusted damage over $1 billion); the storm thus earned the nickname "Billion-Dollar Betsy". This led to the first reinsurance "spiral" among syndicates of underwriters at Lloyds of London.
At Alice Town on the island of Bimini, tides were 2.3 feet (0.70 m) mean low water. Additionally, tides ranging between 4 and 5 feet (1.2 and 1.5 m) above normal were reported on Eleuthera. Very strong winds pelted the Bahamas, such observations include: 151 mph (243 km/h), 178 mph (286 km/h), and 89 mph (143 km/h), in Green Turtle Cay, Hope Town, and West End, respectively. At other locations, power failures rendered other measurements unavailable. One fatality occurred in the Bahamas when a man died aboard his ship, which wrecked in the Nassau Harbor. Overall, damage in the Bahamas totaled to $14 million (1965 USD).
As Hurricane Betsy approached the east coast of Florida on September 7, 1965, the Panamanian-registered Greek freighter Amaryllis, bound from Manchester, England to New Orleans with a Greek crew of 30, sought refuge in the Port of Palm Beach in Riviera Beach, Florida, but as she approached the Palm Beach Inlet from the Atlantic Ocean into the port, she suffered steering problems in addition to the high winds and seas, which resulted in her being forced into the shallow waters laced with coral reefs north of the inlet. Sometime during the night of September 7 to September 8, she ran aground on the Singer Island beach in Riviera Beach. During the next day the winds and seas increased as Hurricane Betsy made her landfall to the south in Key Largo; this pounding served to further wedge the ship onto the beach. After several salvage attempts, the ship was abandoned and later scuttled to form an artificial reef.
In Downtown Miami, some areas were inundated with 3 to 4 feet (0.91 to 1.2 m) of water, while many buildings and stores suffered wind damage to their front portions. On Key Biscayne, 200 people rode out the storm. They were left isolated after three barges broke loose and smashed into the Rickenbacker Causeway – the only bridge to the mainland. About 90% of the avocado crop in Miami-Dade County was lost. Tides in West Palm Beach spewed water, sand, and other debris across Flagler Drive – a street along the Intracoastal Waterway – making it impassable in some areas. A few stores suffered broken windows and there was damage to trees and shrubbery, though no significant property losses were reported.
Gulf of Mexico
Eight offshore oil platforms were destroyed during Betsy, with others experiencing damage. A Shell oil platform off the Mouth of the Mississippi river was not seen again. The oil rig Maverick, owned by future president George H. W. Bush's Zapata corporation also disappeared during the cyclone. It was insured by Lloyd's of London for US$5.7 million (1965 dollars).
|Source: Hurricane Severity Index|
Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans on the evening of September 9, 1965. 110 mph (180 km/h) winds and power failures were reported in New Orleans. The eye of the storm passed to the southwest of New Orleans on a northwesterly track. The northern and western eyewalls covered Southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans area from about 8 pm until 4 am the next morning. In Thibodaux winds of 130 mph (210 km/h) to 140 mph (230 km/h) were reported. The Baton Rouge weather bureau operated under auxiliary power, without telephone communication. Around 1 am, the worst of the wind and rain was over.
Betsy also drove a storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, just north of New Orleans, and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a deep-water shipping channel to the east and south. Levees for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet along Florida Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward and on both sides of the Industrial Canal failed. The flood water reached the eaves of houses in some places and over some one story roofs in the Lower Ninth Ward. Some residents drowned in their attics trying to escape the rising waters.
These levee breaches flooded parts of Gentilly, the Upper Ninth Ward, and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans as well as Arabi and Chalmette in neighboring St. Bernard Parish. President Lyndon Johnson visited the city, promising New Orleans Mayor Vic Schiro federal aid.
It was ten days or more before the water level in New Orleans went down enough for people to return to their homes. It took even longer than that to restore their flooded houses to a livable condition. Those who did not have family or friends with dry homes had to sleep in the shelters at night and forage for supplies during the day, while waiting for the federal government to provide emergency relief in the form of trailers. In all, 164,000 homes were flooded at the second landfall.
Evidence suggests that cheap construction and poor maintenance of the structures led to the failure of the levees. However, popular rumor persists that they were intentionally breached, possibly as a means of salvaging the more prosperous French Quarter.[broken citation] This is, however, unlikely; even though the French Quarter is one of the geographically highest neighborhoods in the city, during the first eighty years of the 20th century, the French Quarter was, in fact, an unfashionable neighborhood, populated mostly by lower income people, who were not priced out of the market until well into the 1980s.
The storm produced rainfall, high tides, and strong winds in Mississippi. Near the border with Alabama, tides of 7 feet (2.1 m) were reported, while ranging as high as 15 feet (4.6 m) near the state line with Louisiana. Wind speeds also varied greatly throughout the state. In Pascagoula, winds between 40 and 65 mph (64 and 105 km/h) were recorded. By contrast, winds were in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h) in Bay St. Louis. Despite the winds, much of the property damage in the state was caused by tides along the Gulf Coast. Strong winds and heavy rainfall caused significant crop damage in Harrison, Hancock County, Mississippi, and Jackson County, Mississippi. Throughout the state, 25,000 people lost electricity and more than 22,641 disruptions to telephone service occurred. Overall, damage in the state of Mississippi totaled to $80 million (1965 USD).
Effects of the storm in Alabama were relatively minor. Tides in Mobile reached 4.7 feet (1.4 m) above normal. Although no tropical storm force winds were reported, wind gusts of 44 mph (71 km/h) and 80 mph (130 km/h) in Mobile and Dauphin Island, respectively. Winds caused minor damage to houses and buildings, especially on Dauphin Island and southern Mobile County, mostly along the shore of Mobile Bay. In the same area, extensive power outages and telephone disruptions were reported. Buildings on the Mobile Bay Causeway and the causeway itself were flooded. Further inland, about 20% of the pecan crop was damaged. Rainfall was mostly light, peaking at 2.19 inches (56 mm) in Mobile. Additionally, the storm spawned one tornado, which did not cause significant damage. Overall damages in the state totaled $500,000 (1965 USD).
In Texas, only Port Arthur reported impact from the storm. Sustained winds were only 26 mph (42 km/h) and a mere 0.02 inches (0.51 mm) of rain fell. In addition, tides of 2.4 feet (0.73 m) above the mean sea level were reported.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hurricane Protection Program came into existence as a result of Betsy. The Corps built new levees for New Orleans that were both taller and made of stronger material, designed specifically to resist a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane like Betsy. The resulting levee improvements failed when Hurricane Katrina, a large, slow-moving, intense hurricane made landfall near New Orleans on August 29, 2005.
Because of the significance of its damage in the Bahamas, southern Florida and the Gulf Coast, the name Betsy was retired from the recurring list of names; the name "Betsy" will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced by the name Blanche for the 1969 season. Lightnin' Hopkins later wrote a blues song called Hurricane Betsy.
- Arnold L. Sugg (March 1966). "The Hurricane Season of 1965". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2012-04-13.
- Colon (August 23, 1965). Advisories and Bulletins (Report). National Hurricane Center. p. 1. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1965/betsy/public/tcp01.gif. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- David Roth (February 14, 2011). Extended Best Track Database for CLIQR program (Report). Hydrometeorological Prediction Center. http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/research/roth/ebtrk_nhc_final.txt. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Arnold Sugg (August 29, 1965). Advisory No. 9 (Report). National Hurricane Center. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1965/betsy/public/tcp03.gif. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- Arnold Sugg (September 8, 1965). Bulletin (Report). National Hurricane Center. http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/archive/storm_wallets/atlantic/atl1965/betsy/public/tcp27.gif. Retrieved December 22, 2012.
- "Local Statement No. 1". Weather Bureau. September 9, 1965. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- Robert Woodthorpe Browne (February 3, 2010). "The London Insurance and Reinsurance Market". Gresham College. Retrieved 2013-06-12.
- Von Gleson, Poor Amaryllis is stuck on Florida, Times-Miami Herald Service, from St. Petersburg Times, July 31, 1966
- Florida scuba diving: Amaryllis
- "Storm's Damage At Glance". Miami Herald (National Hurricane Center). September 9, 1965. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- "Cleo's Blow Was Harder To Most S. Florida Cities". Miami Herald (National Hurricane Center). September 9, 1965. Retrieved February 27, 2013.
- Austin, D.; Carriker, B.; McGuire, T.; Pratt, J.; Priest, T.; Pulsipher, A.G. (July 2004). History of the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry in Southern Louisiana Interim Report: Volume I: Papers on the Evolving Offshore Industry (PDF) 1 (OCS Study MMS 2004-049). New Orleans, Louisiana: United States Department of the Interior, Minerals Management Service, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region. pp. 21–22. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "Local Statement No. 7". Weather Bureau. September 9, 1965. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "Local Statement No. 8". Weather Bureau. September 10, 1965. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "Local Statement No. 11". Weather Bureau. September 10, 1965. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- Young, Tara (December 12, 2005). "Rumor of levee dynamite persists". The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 2011-08-25.
- "Storm Data - September 1965". National Climatic Data Center. 1965. p. 120. Retrieved 2012-04-13.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Hurricane Betsy|
- A film clip A Hurricane Called Betsy is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Historic Images of Florida Hurricanes (State Archives of Florida)
- President Lyndon Johnson and the Response to Hurricane Betsy @ University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs