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Hurricane History for the Washington and Baltimore Region

(last updated 5/25/2012)

  

Note: For specific storm damage at county level, go to the following address for storms since 1996:   http://www.erh.noaa.gov/lwx/Storms/Strmdata/

For storms since 1950, visit NCDC Web site: http://www4.ncdc.noaa.gov/cgi-win/wwcgi.dll?wwevent~storms

 

Nineteenth Century Tropical Cyclones

 

1878 October 23 Not Named. A Category 2 hurricane hit the Washington/Baltimore region. This is the strongest storm to ever hit this region since record-keeping began in 1851.

1893 October 13-14 Not Named. A Category 1 hurricane moved through the region.

1896 September 30 Not Named. A Category 1 hurricane moved through western parts of Virginia.

Twentieth Century Tropical Cyclones

 

1933 August 23-24 Chesapeake Bay Hurricane. This storm made landfall near Virginia Beach. The eye of the storm traveled up the west side of the Bay and just to the west of Washington DC. This allowed the storm’s strongest winds to funnel water into the mouth of the bay and then northward right up the Potomac. This storm caused record high tides up the entire west side of the Chesapeake Bay and in Washington DC with damages the highest ever recorded from a storm surge. In Washington DC, the surge reached 11 feet. This storm caused a total of 18 deaths and $79 million (adjusted to 1969) in damages.

 

Naming of storms began in 1952

 

1952 September 1 ABLE. The storm reached the southwest section of the District of Columbia in the early morning hours of Sept.1st. It was attended by heavy rains and winds of 30 to 40 mph with occasional gusts up to 50 mph. The peak gust reported at Washington National Airport was 60 mph. A small tornado did considerable damage to dwellings at Franconia in Fairfax County. A tornado, which may have been the same one, also struck with destructive force at Potomac, MD. Rainfall was heavy, ranging from 2 to over 3 inches. Property damage in the area was estimated to be in excess of $500,000 caused primarily by flooding and the destructive force of the tornado. Falling trees and branches disrupted power and telephone facilities.

1954 October 15 HAZEL. Last storm to bring hurricane force winds to Washington DC. Hazel made landfall near Wilmington, NC by mid morning on the 15th and by that afternoon the eye of the storm was passing west of DC. This put the strongest winds across the city. Reagan National Airport recorded sustained winds at 78 MPH with gusts to 98 MPH. These records still stand today. Some of the installations were damaged. Huge trees were uprooted and toppled falling on cars, houses, roads, and utility lines. Many windows were blown out and many roofs were damaged or torn off. There were 3 deaths in the District, 13 in Virginia and 6 in Maryland. Many other people were injured. Over a half of a million dollars (1954 dollars) in damage occurred in the District with about $40 million in damages to Maryland and Virginia. Historical database shows that this storm was already extratropical when it moved through the area as it had already merged with a front, so it can not be considered as hurricane, but a rather strong extratropical storm.

 

1955 August 13 CONNIE.  The eye of Connie moved up the Chesapeake Bay, across Baltimore and into Pennsylvania. Connie dropped as much as 9.5 inches in Prince Georges County and the storm’s rainfall produced flooding on the Monocacy River in Frederick County, on the Rock Creek in DC, and on the Anacostia River in DC and Prince Georges County. The rains produced by Connie saturated the soil and set the stage for the devastating floods which followed the passage of Hurricane. 16 people were killed when a small boat capsized in the Chesapeake Bay. Total damage in Virginia was estimated at $1 million and $4 million dollars in Maryland.

1955 August 18 DIANE. Five days after Connie, Diane moved across central and northern Virginia northeast through Baltimore County and into Pennsylvania. The combined rains of Connie and Diane set new records from Danville to Fredericksburg to Winchester to Staunton for the month of August. Diane dropped an additional 10 inches of rain on the Blue Ridge Mountains. The heaviest rains fell along the Skyline Drive area. Luray recorded 8.82 inches of rain from Diane, when combined with Connie’s rainfall, helped set a new monthly record of near 20 inches. Big Meadows also set a new record for August with nearly 24 inches. Baltimore set a new record with 18.35 inches.The heavy rains resulted in flash flooding along the piedmont and over the Shenandoah Valley. Water flowed into nearby rivers causing the heaviest flooding on the Shenandoah and Rappahannock rivers. The Rappahannock River crested 8.5 feet above flood stage in Remington setting a new record and 11.5 feet above flood stage at Fredericksburg.

1969 August 20 CAMILLE. The strongest hurricane to hit the United States in modern meteorological times. After making landfall in Mississippi as a Category 5 on August 17, it weakened rapidly as it moved northward. Camille came back to life as it moved eastward into Virginia. On August 19, torrential rains lasting more than eight hours caused flash floods and mudslides along the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Early on the 20th, Camille intensified as it passed south of Roanoke and Lynchburg. Rainfall increased rapidly to the northeast of the low-pressure center along the western slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Downtown Waynesboro was submerged under 8 feet of water from the South River. In Amherst and Nelson Counties, many communities were partially destroyed along with highways, bridges, utilities, and railways. In Nelson County, Camille dumped 31 inches of rain in six hours and more than 133 bridges were wiped out. Residents remembered the rain as resembling a massive waterfall. The rainfall continued to increase on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains, reaching catastrophic proportions. These flash floods and landslides constituted the worst natural disaster ever to affect the state of Virginia. Most residents were asleep during the storm, which had been unpredicted. There was no way to warn anyone of the impending catastrophe, because phone lines were obliterated along with everything else by flash floods barreling down creeks and rivers. At least 153 Virginians lost their lives in Camille; of these, 126 were residents of Nelson County. After the storm, only one highway in Virginia remained intact. Camille moved off the coast on the afternoon of the 20th.

1972 June 22 AGNES. One of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history with $2.1 billion in damages. Devastating floods occurred from North Carolina to New York. 10 to 14 inches of rain fell over a broad area of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  Major River flooding occurred on the Rappahannock, Rapidan, and Potomac River Basins. At Wisconsin Avenue in NW DC, the river rose 15.5 feet making it third worst flood in 100 years of history. In Virginia, there were 13 deaths and $126 million in damages. In Maryland, there were 19 deaths and $110 million in damages and in West Virginia there were $7.8 million in damages. In the District of Columbia, two lives were lost when a family went wading in Rock Creek and the two children were swept away from their parents. Dulles Airport recorded 5.74 inches in one 6-hour period and 11.88 inches in the 24-hour period ending at 8AM June 22. A crest of 22 feet was reached at Little Falls, 10 feet above flood stage but about 3 feet below the record flood of March 1936. Numerous homes in the Seneca area were badly damaged, as were recreational facilities along the river. At Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC, the river rose to 15.4 feet on June 24, 8 feet above flood stage, but 2.3 feet below the record flood of 1942. While the flood in the Washington area was not disastrous, it caused fairly heavy damage to both private and public property.

1975 September17 Eloise. Remnants of Eloise produced widespread heavy rainfall and flooding. Totals included 14.23" in Westminster, MD, and 9.08" in Washington, DC.

1979 July 14 BOB. The remains of Bob produced flooding over portions of western West Virginia but the details are sketchy.

1979 September 6 DAVID. Hurricane David spawned eight tornadoes across the greater Washington metro area. The strongest tornado was an F3 in Fairfax County that tracked 18 miles, killing one and injuring six. Fairfax County had $2.5 million in damages.

1985 July 25 BOB. Isolated tornadoes were reported across Maryland and Virginia associated with this storm.

1985 Sep 27 GLORIA. Once Category-4 Gloria struck Cape Hatteras as a Category-2 storm, then parralleled the Virginia and Maryland coastlines. Rainfall amounts of over 6 inches and strong winds left nearly 200,000 people across Virginia and Maryland without power.

 

 

1988 August 29 CHRIS. Chris made landfall near Savannah, GA on the 28th and weakened to a depression over South Carolina where it merged with a front. It then traveled northeast across VA/MD/PA and into the northeast U.S. Rainfall amounts were three to five inches across a large swath from SC through PA and into the Northeast.

1996 July 13 BERTHA. Made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina and then moved northeastward along the U.S East Coast, producing 40 to 50 knot sustained winds causing widespread damage along the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Bertha spawned three tornadoes, two in Calvert and one in St. Mary’s County. High winds and torrential rainfall left approximately 45,000 Baltimore Gas and Electric customer without power during the height of the storm.

1996 September 6 FRAN. Hurricane Fran made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina and weakened to a depression while moving through Virginia. Fran dropped up to 16 inches of rain in Big Meadows causing Record River flooding on the Potomac River and the Shenandoah River. Old Town Alexandria was partially evacuated as the river rose, flooding streets with more than three feet of water. The Shenandoah National Park remained closed for two weeks due to wind and flood damage. Rockingham County reported 40 homes destroyed and 105 homes with major damage. In Warren County, 250 homes were flooded with 50 sustaining major damage. Waynesboro also saw major damage to its downtown area. Across Virginia, flooding from Fran caused $350 million in damages and killed 6 people. Over 100 people were rescued from flood waters. 560 thousand people in Virginia experienced power outages. Wind gusts as high as 79 MPH were experienced at Big Meadows. Scattered tree damage occurred throughout much of the state of VA from the combination of strong winds and saturated soils. Tidal flooding was also a problem on both the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. A surge of 5.1 feet created moderate flooding along the Washington Harbor. Some areas in lower Georgetown and along the marina reported flooding.

 

1999 September 16 FLOYD. Hurricane Floyd made landfall near Cape Fear, North Carolina early on the 16th as a Category 2 hurricane. Floyd weakened as it moved swiftly along the Delmarva Peninsula. Heavy rainfall preceded Floyd over the Mid-Atlantic States due to a pre-existing frontal zone and the associated overrunning. Totals of 12 to 14 inches were observed in Maryland. Wind gusts of 50 to 70 MPH caused trees and power lines to come down. A 2 to 3 feet surge occurred along the Chesapeake Bay due to strong southerly winds blowing ahead of the storm. Minor flooding of low lying areas occurred in St. Mary’s, Calvert and Anne Arundel counties. In Virginia, there were 280,000 people without power at some point. Total damages in Virginia reached $255 million with 64 jurisdictions affected. Three people lost their lives directly related to the storm. In Maryland, there was one death and over 250,000 customers without power at some point.

21st Century Tropical Cyclones

 

2003 September 19 ISABEL. One of the most significant tropical cyclones to affect the Chesapeake Bay region since Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and the Chesapeake –Potomac Hurricane of 1933. Isabel made landfall near Drum Point on the NC Outer Banks on the 18th as a strong category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 105 mph. Isabel then traveled north northwestward losing its tropical characteristics on the 19th over western Pennsylvania. Isabel will be remembered for the very large field of tropical storm force winds which caused a great deal of tree damage, the extensive flash flooding  in the Shenandoah Valley, and the unusually high storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River Basin. Fallen trees and limbs were the overwhelming reason for widespread power failures and damage and destruction to nearly 8,000 homes, which will likely made Isabel as one of the most expensive storms. At the peak of the storm, well over 2 million people were without power.  Isabel is a reminder that if the impacts of a Category 2 hurricane can be so extensive, the impact of Category 3 or higher could be devastating.

Rainfall totals were generally in the 6 to 12 inches in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, 2 to 6 inches across western Maryland and eastern West Virginia, and 1 to 3 inches across Baltimore and Washington metro areas. Upper Sherando (Augusta County) reported a storm total of 20.20 inches. Moderate to Major River flooding occurred in the Potomac, Shenandoah, Rapidan and Rappahannock rivers. In the city of Waynesboro, 300 people were evacuated and about $250,000 damage was caused to public property.  Flood caused 2 to 3 feet of water in downtown Waynesboro. Four people lost their lives mainly due to drowning.

Isabel also caused an unusually high storm surge (6-8 feet above normal) in the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River Basin. Storm surge in the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River reached the highest levels since the Chesapeake/Potomac Hurricane of 1933. Substantial flooding from storm surge was experienced by residents and businesses in Baltimore, Annapolis, northern Virginia and Washington DC. In Annapolis, the peak water level reached 6.44 feet MSL and caused extensive damage at the Naval Academy. In Baltimore, the peak water level reached 7.35 feet MSL. The most extensive flooding occurred at Fell’s Point and at the Inner Harbor, near downtown. Several feet of water inundated streets and alleys there. Significant also occurred in low-lying areas of Old Town Alexandria. Portions of King Street were under as much as 5 to 6 feet of water. In Washington, DC (Georgetown at the foot of Wisconsin Ave.), the water level reached 8.72 feet. The headquarters of the police and fire harbor patrol at Water Street were also flooded.

 

2004 September 17 IVAN. The remnants of Ivan spawned an outbreak of 117 tornadoes over a 3 day period in the United States including 37 tornadoes in Virginia, 6 in Maryland and 3 in West Virginia.  A total of 32 tornadoes occurred in the LWX forecast area. The strongest tornado was an F3 in Fauquier County near Remington. There were no fatalities, but 12 people suffered injuries. See map of tornado paths.

2004 September 28-29 JEANNE. The remnants of Hurricane Jeanne brought widespread flooding to LWX forecast area. Rainfall amounts of 4 to 7 seven inches were common across the entire region. The storm moved off the Mid Atlantic coast on the 29th    as an extratropical cyclone.

2005 July 8 CINDY. The remnants of Cindy moved northeastward along the eastern slopes of the Appalachians of western Virginia as an extratropical low and emerged off the Mid-Atlantic coast on the afternoon on the 8th. The remnants of Cindy caused heavy rains and localized floods in Virginia. More than five inches fell across a large portion of the Appalachian Mountain region of Virginia.

 

2006 September 1-2 ERNESTO. Ernesto reached the North Carolina/Virginia border as an extratropical cyclone as it interacted with a pre-existing frontal zone. A large area of high pressure over southeastern Canada combined with the approaching Ernesto, prior to its landfall, to produce gale-force winds and some rather heavy rains over and near the coasts of Virginia and Maryland. This complex series of events resulted in some storm surge flooding along the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay and the adjacent rivers, where storm tides of up to about 6 feet where reported. In Virginia, storm surge flooded several homes, and some piers and boats were significantly damaged. Rainfall amounts of 5 to 10 inches fell along the VA/MD coasts.

 

 

2008 - September 6 - HANNA

Tropical Storm Hanna made landfall on September 6, 2008 near Myrtle Beach, SC and move up the Atlantic coast through the day. The track of the cyclone stayed east of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area. Maximum sustained winds generally averaged between 20-35 mph through the afternoon of the 6th.

Rainfall was a much bigger impact from this cyclone. The highest rainfall total from this storm (9.65”) occurred in Woodbridge, VA. Numerous reports of 7-9 inches of rainfall were received across northern Virginia.


2011 - August 27-28 - IRENE

Hurricane Irene affected the Mid-Atlantic region on Saturday, August 27 through Sunday, August 28, 2011. The tropical cyclone was named a week prior on August 20, 2011 as the tropical wave was entering the eastern Caribbean. The cyclone was upgraded to a hurricane just before affecting Puerto Rico on August 21st. The cyclone then turned northwest and then north, paralleling the eastern seaboard of the United States, eventually making landfall near Cape Lookout, North Carolina on the morning of the 27th as a Category 1 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph. Irene then travelled northeast, paralleling the Mid-Atlantic coast. The center of the cyclone passed less than 15 miles off the coast of Ocean City just after 2 AM on August 28th, and then made a second landfall near Little Egg Inlet, New Jersey around 5:35 am. Eventually, Irene weakened to a tropical storm as it moved over New York City around 9 AM.

Locally, Irene will be remembered for producing extensive tree damage due to its strong gusty winds and for its heavy rainfall. Communities across southern Maryland and along the western shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay received the largest impact, although minor impacts extended west all the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains. The fallen trees resulted in nearly 1,000 homes being damaged, and almost two dozen homes being destroyed. In addition, the wind and fallen trees resulted in nearly 2.5 million power outages in Virginia, and around 850,000 in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The amount of power outages in Virginia was the second highest in Virginia history – just behind Isabel in 2003. Early damage estimates in the days following the storm topped $13 million in northern Virginia and central and southern Maryland.

In terms of rainfall, a swath of 5-10 inches of rainfall was reported to the west of the storm track. Communities east of Baltimore and Washington were within that area. Between the Blue Ridge and Interstate 95, rainfall totals generally fell between 2 and 4 inches, although it was lower in the Catoctin Mountains in north central Maryland. The highest report within northern Virginia and central and southern Maryland came from Leonardtown, Maryland where 11.52 inches of rain fell. Overall, St. Mary’s County Maryland received the heaviest rainfall, averaging between 8 and 11 inches. Numerous roads were closed due to flooding from the heavy rainfall, primarily east of Interstate 95. In addition, the river gauge on St. Clement Creek near Clements, Maryland in St. Mary’s County set a new record level of 6.98 feet. Records at this location date back to 1968.

Bibliography

 

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Chesapeake and Potomac Hurricane,” Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic
States, 134-138.

Cobb, H.D., 1991: “The Chesapeake-Potomac Hurricane of 1933,”Weatherwise, 44, 24-29.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Hazel,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 197-201.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#hazel

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#connie

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Connie,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 211-214.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Diane,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 215-220.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Camille,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 233-251.

Emanuel, K., 2005: “Hurricane Camille,”Divine Wind The History and Science of Hurricanes,
205-211.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#camille

Hurricane Camille, August 14-22, 1969: Preliminary Report: US DOC, ESSA, Weather Bureau, September
1969.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Agnes,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 253-269.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#agnes

Hurricane Agnes, June 18-21, 1972: Final Report of the Disaster Survey Team on the Events of Agnes: US
DOC, NOAA, February 1973.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “David,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 275-279.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Bertha,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 290 pp.

Lawrence, M., 1996: Hurricane Bertha, 05-14 July 1996, Preliminary Report, NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC,
Miami, FL.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Fran,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 291-292.

Mayfield, M., 1996: Hurricane Fran, 23 Aug - 8 Sept 1996, Preliminary Report,
NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC, Miami, FL.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Dennis and Floyd,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 294-296.

Pasch, R., Kimberlain, T.B., and Stewart, S.R., 1999: Hurricane Floyd, 7-17 Sept 1996, Preliminary
Report, NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC, Miami, FL.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#floyd

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Isabel,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 305-312.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#isabel

Beven, J., and H. Cobb, 2004: Hurricane Isabel, 6-19 Sept 2003, Tropical Cyclone Report,
NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC, Miami, FL.

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Ivan,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 320-324.

Stewart, S.R., 2005: Hurricane Ivan, 2-24 Sept. 2004, Tropical Cyclone Report, NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC,
Miami, FL.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#ivan

Schwartz, R., 2007: “Jeanne,”Hurricanes and the Middle Atlantic States, 325 pp.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#jeanne

Lawrence, M.B., and H.D. Cobb, 2005: Hurricane Jeanne, 13-28 Sept 2004, Tropical Cyclone Report,
NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC, Miami, FL.

Knabb, R.D., and M. Mainelli, 2006: Hurricane Ernesto, 24 Aug –1 Sept 2006, Tropical Cyclone Report,
NOAA/NWS/TPC/NHC, Miami, FL.

 

 

 

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Category
Wind Speed (mph)
TD under 39
TS 39-73
1 74-95
2 96-110
3 111-130
4 131-155
5 above 155

 

 

 


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