The decade of the 1950s was the most active this century in terms of hurricane threats for Virginia and the Carolinas. The decade featured a number of significant hurricanes and thus the descripotions of the storm are divided into....The Hurricanes 1950-1954 in Virginia and North Carolina...The hurricanes of 1955 and the hurricanes from 1956 through 1959. The year 1955 was considered to be the most active year in the decade in which 3 hurricanes struck North Carolina with significant impacts in southeastern Virginia.

The first hurricane of the decade of the 1950s to impact the Virginia-Carolinas region was Barbara in 1953. Barbara developed in the southeastern Bahamas on August 11, 1953 and moved in a steady north-northwesterly direction over the next 48 hours while steadily intensifying to a Category 1 hurricane. .

Barbara made landfall on the evening of August 13, 1953 near Cape Lookout, N.C. as a Category 1 hurricane. Barbara turned northeastward and crossed the Pamlico and extreme eastern Albemarle sounds during the overnight hours of August13-14th and re-emerged into the Atlantic near Corolla, N.C. some 50 miles southeast of Norfolk.

Minimal hurricane force winds raked the Outer Banks, while 50-60 mph winds were reported over southeastern Virginia which was well into the weaker western semicircle of the storm.

Barbara was noteworthy for the copius amounts of rain which fell over southeastern Virginia. Amounts of 5 to 8 inches across the region were common. The city of Portsmouth reported 9.3 inches of rain in 24 hours the greatest of any location affected by Barbara.

                                      Hurricanes Carol and Edna - August 30, 1954 and September 11, 1954

The hurricane season of 1954 was the first of 2 extremely active hurricane seasons for the Virginia-Carolinas region. In these two years 6 hurricanes either made landfall in the area or were significant enough threats to the area to warrant the issuances of hurricane watches.

The first storm of significance, Carol developed in the Bahamas on August 25th and drifted slowly north for the next four days several hundred miles off the Florida coast while steadily intensifying to a Category 2 hurricane. The upper air patterns over the eastern United States were weak and ill defined and provided little in the way of steering for Hurricane Carol.

On August 30th an upper level trough was amplifying over the Great Lakes region and determined the track of Carol. Under the incluence of this trough, the hurricane accelerated to the north-northeast. The storm brushed Cape Hatteras shortly after 10:30 PM on the evening of August 30th and passed 125 miles east of Norfolk around 1:00 AM August 31st. Here is a track of Hurricane Carol and a surface analysis valid at 1100 PM August 30, 1954 (0300 UTC August 31, 1954).

The most significant effects of hurricane Carol were felt in North Carolina. Winds of hurricane force were confined to the Outer Banks. Maximum wind gusts reached 55-65 mph in Wilmington and New Bern, N.C. and near 100 mph at Cape Hatteras. In southeastern Virginia tropical storm force winds of 40 mph were reported in Virginia Beach. Rainfall in southeastern Virginia amounted to an inch or so.

Hurricane Carol accelerated to a forward speed of 60 mph and smashed into eastern Long Island and New England in the early morning hours of August 31st and was the most significant hurricane to strike the region since 1938.

Hazel was by far the most significant hurricane to affect eastern North Carolina and Virginia in 1954 and the most destructive this century for a few locations in southeast North Carolina. Hurricane Hazel produced the largest swath of hurricane force winds this century over Virginia and North Carolina with many locations breaking wind speed records, including Norfolk and Washington, D.C.

Hazel developed near the Windward Islands the first week of October 1954 and moved in a genral westward direction. On October 10th, Hazel encountered an upper level low in the central Caribbean, which steered the storm northward into Haiti and the Domincan Republic. Hazel crossed Haiti on October 12th killing nearly 500. The storm emerged in the Bahamas on October 13th just as the upper air pattern over North America was undergoing a significant change with a deepening trough developing in the Mississippi River Valley.

The amplifying trough pulled hazel north-northwestward at an accelerated pace on October 14th. Hurricane Warnings went out for the Carolinas as yet another storm threatened the region. Hazel came ashore on the morning of October 15th near the North-South Carolina border as a Category 4 hurricane, the only storm of such intensity to do so until Hurricane Hugo struck in 1989.

From the coastline, Hazel accelerated northward through Raleigh....Richmond...Washington, D.C. within a 4 hour period, having reached a forward speed of 55 mph. The track indicates this rapid northward acceleration. A surface analysis from 1500 UTC October 15, 1954 indicated Hazel was very near Raleigh, N.C. Sustained hurricane force winds swept over all of eastern North Carolina and Virginia as well as the lower Maryland eastern shore. Sustained winds hit 78 mph in Norfolk, 79 mph in Raleigh and 73 mph in Washington, D.C. The highest gusts at these locations approached or exceeded 100 mph. An unofficial gust of 130 mph was recorded in Hampton, Va.

The lowest barometric pressure recorded in Norfolk was 981.6 millibars (28.99 inches of mercury). In Richmond the pressure fell to 973.8 millibars (28.75 inches of mercury).