1837 Racer's Storm
|Formed||September 28, 1837|
|Dissipated||October 9, 1837|
|Damage||$200,000 (1837 USD)|
|Areas affected||Yucatán, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina|
|Part of the 1837 Atlantic hurricane season|
The 1837 Racer's Storm was one of the most powerful and destructive hurricanes in the 19th century, causing heavy damage to many cities on its 2,000+ mile path. The Racer's Storm was the 10th known tropical storm in the 1837 Atlantic hurricane season.
The Racer's Storm, named after the British ship HMS Racer, was first observed in the Western Caribbean near Jamaica on September 28. Likely having originated from a tropical wave, the hurricane moved to the west, and hit the eastern coast of the Yucatán Peninsula days later. After crossing the peninsula, the hurricane reached the Gulf of Mexico. It journeyed westward, reaching winds of at least 115 mph (185 km/h), with the possibility it was a Category 4 or even a Category 5.
The Racer's Storm reached the western Gulf of Mexico, and hit extreme northeastern Mexico near Matamoros, Tamaulipas, on October 2. The hurricane nearly stalled over land, and drifted northwestward towards Brownsville, Texas. A high pressure system brought the storm to the northeast over the Gulf of Mexico, where it came close to Matagorda Bay on the 4th. This makes the Racer's Storm one of only three tropical systems to hit Texas and exit back into the Gulf of Mexico, the others being Tropical Storm Delia in 1973 and Tropical Storm Allison in 2001.
On October 5 the hurricane passed Galveston, Texas, and continued its northeast movement. The Racer's Storm made its third landfall near Venice, Louisiana on the night of the 6th, and moved eastward across Louisiana. From here, its history is unclear. Some historians track the hurricane to the northeast across Mississippi and Alabama, while others say the hurricane moved eastward, re-emerged into the Gulf of Mexico, and hit Pensacola on the 7th. Regardless, the hurricane was moving northeastward through Georgia.
The Racer's Storm moved offshore near Charleston, South Carolina on October 9 as a weakening tropical storm. It tracked northeastward, and made its final landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina that night. It crossed the Outer Banks and emerged into the Atlantic Ocean late on the 9th. After this the storm's history is unknown, but it likely became extratropical over the northwestern Atlantic Ocean as it went out to sea.
While no reports are available from the Yucatán Peninsula, the Racer's Storm was a very destructive hurricane throughout its 2,000-mile (3,200 km) path. First, when it stalled near Brownsville, it destroyed all of the ships in the Brazos Santiago harbor. In addition, the entire town of Brazos Santiago was destroyed from the storm's heavy winds and storm surge.
On Galveston Island, the storm brought a 6 to 7 feet (2.1 m) storm surge. That, in combination with the winds and rain, destroyed every house on the island with the exception of two. Many ships were destroyed there, with 2 people killed. Floodwaters reached between fifteen and twenty miles inland.
In southeastern Louisiana, the Racer's Storm caused immense structural damage, with $200,000 (1837 USD, $3.4 million 2005 USD) in railroad damage occurring. In New Orleans, Lake Pontchartrain rose eight feet above, with much of the city being flooded in 1 to 2 feet (0.61 m) of water and all wharves along the Mississippi coast being washed away. The wooden lighthouse at Bayou St.John was swept away.
The storm caused vast agricultural losses across the southeastern U.S., while cotton crops suffered most.
The passenger steamboat SS Home sank off the Outer Banks, drowning 90 of its passengers and crew. Two other ships, the 'Enterprise' and the 'Cumberland' are also known to have been lost off the Outer Banks.
This hurricane caused a total of 105 deaths.
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