1929 Bahamas hurricane
|Category 4 major hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)|
|Formed||September 22, 1929|
|Dissipated||October 4, 1929|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained: 155 mph (250 km/h) |
|Lowest pressure||924 mbar (hPa); 27.29 inHg|
|Fatalities||51 direct |
|Damage||$676,000 (1929 USD)|
|Part of the 1929 Atlantic hurricane season|
The 1929 Bahamas Hurricane (also known as the Great Andros Island Hurricane) was the second hurricane and the only major hurricane during the very inactive 1929 Atlantic hurricane season. The hurricane was the only hurricane to cause any significant damage, resulting in $676,000 (1929 USD, $7.3 million 2005 USD) in damage. Only a year after the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane, the hurricane caused only three deaths in southern Florida, a low number due to well-executed warnings. The hurricane was much more severe in the Bahamas, where damage was near extreme due to the hurricane stalling over the area for an extended period of time. There, the hurricane caused 48 deaths.
The hurricane can be traced back to a complex of disturbed weather near Cabo Verde on September 11, producing showers across the open waters of the Atlantic and directed westward by the Azores High. The disturbance remained a weak tropical wave for much of its early history, but over time gradually organized. By September 15, weather maps began to notate the system as a trough of low pressure north of the Lesser Antilles. A portion of this trough split off and moved northwest towards the South Atlantic states while the remaining disturbance continued to organize, becoming a tropical depression approximately 355 mi (571 km) northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, by September 18. Over the next three days, the system remained a tropical depression as it tracked slowly west. It reached tropical storm strength by September 22 while 400 mi (640 km) of San Juan and began to curve northwest. Continuing to strengthen, the storm reached hurricane intensity the following day. On September 24, the hurricane began to slowly move southwest towards The Bahamas, traversing the Northeast Providence Channel. Until that point, few observations probed the core of the rapidly intensifying hurricane on its approach of the islands due to its small size. On September 25, the steamship Potamac measured a central air pressure of 924 mbar (hPa; 27.30 inHg), suggesting wind speeds of 155 mph (249 km/h): a high-end Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson scale.
At 00:30 UTC on September 25, the intense hurricane passed over Nassau with maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (233 km/h); the capital city was within the calm of the eye for two hours. The next day, it crossed Andros Island south of Fresh Creek, moving at 2–3 mph (3.2–4.8 km/h), and afterwards curved slowly towards the west-northwest over the Florida Straits towards Florida. A high-pressure area associated with cool temperatures over the United States was responsible for the sudden southwest trajectory. The United States Weather Bureau remarked that the storm's track was "one of the most erratic and abnormal during the last 50 years", with both the slow movement and inadequate observations contributing in the agency's difficulty in locating the center of the storm. The hurricane's winds lessened while its size grew, and on the morning of September 13, it crossed the Florida Keys near Key Largo with winds of 100 mph (160 km/h). A pressure of 948 mbar (hPa; 27.99 inHg) was estimated within a 10-minute lull near the eye's edge at Key Largo. Further weakening occurred as the hurricane accelerated northwestward into the eastern Gulf of Mexico, continuing this heading for two days. On September 28, the storm made an unexpectedly sharp turn towards the northeast, making landfall near Panama City, Florida, near midnight as a high-end tropical storm with winds of 70 mph (110 km/h). Positioned near a steep temperature gradient, the storm quickly transitioned into an extratropical cyclone on September 29 shortly after landfall with cold air wrapping around the circulation. The extratropical cyclone quickly moved northeast across the Eastern Seaboard, eventually dissipating near the Saint Lawrence River on October 4.
The U.S. Weather Bureau began issuing advisories on the storm on September 23, and continued warning on the storm at least twice daily until September 30 after it moved ashore a final time. Storm bulletins were broadcast every 30 minutes by local radio stations. Storm warnings were first issued on the afternoon of September 24 from Miami, Florida, to Charleston, South Carolina. Weather Bureau forecasters were forced to frequently change the scope of their warnings due to the hurricane's slow movement, unusual southwesterly track, and lack of observations in the region. The bureau stated it was "impossible to locate the exact center or direction of movement" on September 26, with their storm bulletins reiterating this uncertainty. Hurricane warnings were ultimately issued for the Florida Keys once the hurricane reached the Florida Straits. Hurricane warnings were later issued for coastal extents between Mississippi and Apalachicola, Florida, in advance of the storm's final landfall.
Although a strong tropical cyclone, the hurricane caused little damage and only three deaths in Florida, a sharp contrast to the Okeechobee Hurricane a year earlier; by contrast, however, damage was very severe in the Bahamas. In Cuba, the hurricane brought rough seas and dark cloud cover.
A weather station in Nassau recorded an unofficial pressure reading of 938 mbar (27.64 inHg). The weather station also recorded a wind gust of 164 mph (264 km/h). According to the Associated Press, the hurricane's 12 feet (3.7 meters) storm surge flooded a road and damaged a seawall, while property damage was severe. In Fresh Creek, the hurricane destroyed six houses and damaged ten others. It also damaged a communications station, disrupting telegraph service. Ten deaths were reported on Andros Island, and according to press reports, 24 people were declared missing. Elsewhere in the Bahamas, the hurricane damaged or destroyed 63 homes and buildings brought flash flooding that left Andros Island under 20 feet (6.1 meters) of water. Offshore, a steamship was run aground near Abaco Island, while a tanker broke in two near Andros Island. Eight sailors perished when their 18-foot schooner sank during the storm. In Fresh Creek, four small boats sank near the Andros Lighthouse, drowning more than 20 sailors. Lord Baden-Powell arrived in the Bahamas at the Prince George Wharf in February 1930. On that occasion, Gordon O'Brien was presented with the Bronze Cross (the highest award for gallantry in Scouting) for his part in rescuing twelve women and children from a ship in distress during the hurricane of September, 1929.
The hurricane's track through the southernmost regions of Florida spared the more densely populated Gold Coast from the storm's worst effects. The resulting damage was "remarkably small for a storm of this character" according to the Weather Bureau, with the state incurring $676,000 in losses; other accounts estimated $821,000, with a figure of $1 million published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Property losses stemmed from both agricultural and utility interests, with damage maximized near the storm's center. Three deaths occurred in Florida, with one each in Marathon, Panama City, and Wewahitchka. The slow forward motion contributed to torrential rainfall over South Florida, including 10.63 in (270 mm) in Miami on September 28.
Damage in the Florida Keys was worst north of the hurricane's eye, including Cape Sable, Upper Matecumbe Key, southern Key Largo, and the Ten Thousand Islands. Storm surge heights reached 6–9 ft (1.8–2.7 m) in Garden Cove, washing out highways out to Big Pine Key. A gust of 150 mph (240 km/h) was estimated in Key Largo, where the hurricane made landfall. Everglades City experienced winds of 90–100 mph (140–160 km/h) and 9 in (230 mm) of rainfall. Damage was wrought to 60–65 homes in both Everglades City and Dupont; they were all repaired within ten days. In Key West, small fishing boats in the upper harbor were overtaken by the high seas and lighting and telephone service was disrupted; losses were estimated at a few thousand dollars. Damage along the southwestern Florida coast was generally minor, with only minimal impacts north of Punta Rassa to Cedar Key. South of Florida City, a 12 mi (19 km)-stretch of railway roadbed required repairs due to storm damage. An estimated 20–30 percent of oranges and half of grapefruits in Lee County were damaged. At least five tornadoes occurred in the hurricane's rainbands between Miami and Stuart, tracking southeast to northwest with the storm's circulation. These were among the first verified reports of tornadoes occurring within a hurricane. Most of the tornadoes were short-lived and were limited to the coast, producing marginal damage. One tornado struck Fort Lauderdale, taking a 0.75 mi (1.21 km)-long and 150–300 ft (46–91 m)-wide path through the city's business center. Frame homes and garages were destroyed. Much of the roof and parapet façade of a 4-story concrete hotel was torn away by the twister. The tornado lifted within a minute of touching down and produced the severest impacts from the hurricane in Fort Lauderdale, inflicting $100,000 in damage. Effects were lessened farther west, though Citrus unshiu pine trees saw significant impacts. The damage in Pensacola was estimated at $60,000.
Gusts of 100 mph (160 km/h) accompanied the hurricane's landfall on the Florida Panhandle, with winds near hurricane-force extending west to Pensacola where a peak gust of 102 mph (164 km/h) was recorded. Docks and small craft were damaged, while trees and telegraph lines were downed. Along the Apalachicola waterfront, the storm surge destroyed nearly all wharves and damaged all coastal fish and oyster storehouses and canning plants. The surge inundated low-lying portions of the city, flooding additional inland warehouses. Parts of a newly built coastal highway west of Apalachicola were washed out by the waves. Panama City incurred $100,000–$150,000 in damage from destroyed wharves and fish storehouses.
Crops and property sustained considerable damage along the central and southern U.S. Atlantic coasts. The storm supplied a continuous stream of moisture and rainfall into the region from September 20 to October 1, causing rivers to flood their banks. Two people were killed in Georgia. High surf and damaging winds spread northward to the Mid-Atlantic states and New England. Trees were blown down in The Berkshires by strong winds enhanced by the local topography. In Maine, heavy rains up to 2 inches (51 mm) flooded storm cellars and broke a prolonged dry spell in the state, though damage was minimal.
In the Bahamas, the hurricane destroyed the Ministry of Education mansion in Nassau which was shortly rebuilt after the storm. Offshore, the wreckage of a steamship that sank during the storm was blown up because it was a hazard to shipping. In Florida, the damage from the hurricane knocked out rail service for a week. The United States Coast Guard provided mail service to Key West, an area hit hard by the hurricane.
In popular culture
The tragic impact of the hurricane on the Bahamas was immortalized by the influential calypso singer "Blind Blake" Higgs in his often-covered folk ballad "Run, Come See, Jerusalem."
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