The Great Hurricane of 1780: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane of the Caribbean and the Americas, by Neely, Wayne
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- ISBN: 9781475949285 | 1475949286
- Cover: Hardcover
- Copyright: 9/18/2012
The year of 1780 was a very destructive year for hurricanes in the North Atlantic. While adequate data is not available for every storm that occurred, some parts of the coastline were populated enough to give data for the significant hurricane occurrences. The hurricane season of 1780 was one of the worst in recorded history. At least eight destructive storms struck the American and Caribbean shores that year. In October, three storms in three successive weeks caused unparalleled economic and military destruction. The most destructive hurricanes of this year all occurred in October and caused at least 1,000 deaths each; this event has never been repeated and only in the 1893 and 2005 seasons were there two such hurricanes. Surprisingly, these storms came at intervals of about 110 years. The period of years from 1780 to 1893 is 113 years, and the period from 1893 to 2005 is 112 years and the greatest storm of them all was the Great Hurricane of 1780. No hurricane in the Atlantic had even come close to matchi¬ng the death toll from this massive storm until 1998's Hurricane Mitch, which struck Central America. That hurricane took the lives of 10,000 to 18,000 people, mostly from Nicaragua and Honduras. However, the Great Hurricane of 1780 still overshoots that devastating statistic by a wide margin. An estimated 22,000 people perished between October 10 and October 18 in the eastern Caribbean, mainly in the Lesser Antilles, with the heaviest losses occurring on the islands of Martinique, St. Eustatius and Barbados. Beyond these casualties, it's estimated that thousands of sailors, mostly French and British, who were campaigning in the region also perished in the storm when the dramatic weather plowed into their vessels. Although the exact strength of the storm is unknown, anecdotal evidence of its destruction leads modern researchers to conclude that the Great Hurricane of 1780 was a Category 5 storm, possibly with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour. However, some of these anecdotal evidence mainly obtained through eyewitness accounts, mentions the complete obliteration of sturdy stone buildings and forts, heavy cannons sent hurtling hundreds of feet, and trees whose bark had been stripped away by the strong winds. This storm was born sometime in the early fall of 1780, somewhere in the tropical waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and sadly, no one saw, tracked or even followed it by satellite. At that time weather satellites did not exist, and no ship happened to be near the young but strengthening storm as it neared the Caribbean. Unseen and unknown, it began its long journey into the islands of the Lesser and Greater Antilles in the southern Caribbean. These islands at the time were the commerce ports and melting pots for merchants, pirates, and military men flying many flags from various countries throughout the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe. These islands were a rich and interesting place to be at that time, full of life and intrigue. As it travelled, the storm fed on warm, moist air. It grew into a huge mass of dark clouds. Winds nudged and shoved the storm northwestward across the Atlantic and into the Caribbean Sea. Within the clouds, lightning crackled, thunder crashed, and strong winds howled. Sheets of torrential rain fell. Still unseen as it approached the southern Caribbean; this powerful storm was whirling toward the Caribbean with great intensity. By the time it drew near, it was already a full-fledged hurricane, carrying winds of at least 155 miles per hour according to some historians. By the time the storm had arrived, it had taken many of the Caribbean residents and sailors by complete surprise resulting in massive causalities both on land and at sea. The second of three storms in the month of October to strike the Caribbean in 1780, was known simply as the Great Hurricane of 1780 and it was the single deadliest storm to ever have affected the Western Hemisphere. Between October 10 and 18, this catastrophic hurricane carved a path of destruction from Barbados to Bermuda. In Barbados, nearly every building on the island was totally demolished by the storm, and production of sugar and rum-two commodities so vital to the local economy was drastically curtailed, and did not recover for at least four years. The Barbados Mercury would later report that "in most plantations all of the buildings, the sugar mills excepted, are laid level with the earth, and that there is not a single estate on the island which entirely escaped the violence of the tempest." More than 4,326 inhabitants died on this island, and the survivors were so traumatized that six months later a British newcomer reported, "The melancholy appearance of every person and thing, struck me with a degree of terror not easily to be described." Many settlers abandoned their plantations and estates and returned to England, leaving the island's economy even further depressed. The Great Hurricane of 1780 struck a nearly fatal blow to the economy of the Caribbean. It was so devastating to the British fleet in the region that their presence throughout the Caribbean and especially North America were thereafter significantly reduced. Although not meteorologically unusual for hurricanes to occur in that location, the hurricane's path took it directly over several of the most populous islands of the region in that locale and that in itself added greatly to the significant death toll. However, what made this storm so unique were the location, the time of year it occurred, and the massive death toll it racked up on these islands. Not for more than two hundred years would the death toll of a North Atlantic hurricane again exceed 10,000 and that was Hurricane Mitch of 1998. The Great Hurricane of 1780 was in many ways the worst hurricane in this region's hurricane history. News of this powerful and deadly hurricane travelled far and wide and sealed the reputation of the Caribbean as a dangerous place for trade and habitation. The year of 1780 was a turning point in the history of the Caribbean, marking the end of a long period of prosperity and the beginning of an episode of economic, social and cultural decline. Hurricanes are among the most destructive forces on planet earth. Winds from these powerful storms can gusts up to 200 miles per hour. While other storms such as tornadoes can create even stronger winds, they rarely last for more than a few minutes; by contrast, hurricanes can last for days or even weeks. The destructive effects of hurricanes have been chronicled for thousands of years, and entire fleets have been sunk and cities destroyed by vicious winds and mountainous seas. The Japanese term Kami-kazi, meaning 'Divine Wind' referred to the hurricane-like storms that sank the fleets of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1281 as they prepared to attack Japan. Damages caused by hurricanes ranges from complete and utter devastation to relatively minor inconveniences. The greatest destruction is usually from water damage resulting from a storm surge that causes a rise in ocean level as the hurricane approaches a land area. The height of and the potential damage from the storm surge depends upon the slope of the ocean floor along the coast and other contributing factors. As hurricanes move inland from the coast or over colder waters, they become low-pressure systems, extra-tropical storms or simply rain depressions. These often bring heavy rainfall to inland areas and cause widespread flooding. Great whirling storms roar out of the oceans in many parts of the world. They are called by several names-hurricanes, typhoons, and cyclones are the three most familiar ones. But no matter what they are called, they are all the same sort of storms. They are born in the same way, in tropical waters throughout the world. They develop in the same way, feeding on warm, moist air, and they do the same kind of damage, both ashore and at sea