Tuesday, October 30, 2012
2005 Atlantic Hurricane season breaks at least four records. Fifteen hurricanes in total, which is a record number of hurricanes in one year. One of those hurricanes, Wilma, is described as the "most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded." The 2005 Atlantic Hurricane season for the first time, at least since the 1850's, was more active than the Typhoon Season. When a hurricane is particularly destructive its name is retired from the list of names that can be given to Hurricanes. That list of retired names includes Fifi. The first Hurricane Fifi pottered north of the Lesser Antilles in early September 1958, and it probably gave welcome rain, good waves and better fishing to flat places like Anguilla. But the second Fifi, in 1974, produced rain enough to cause a mudslide that dammed a river in Honduras. Up stream from the river a bridge collapsed, broke through the dam, sending a torrent downstream that killed around five thousand people in the town of Choloma. Rain from the second Fifi caused a landslide that swallowed another town in Honduras, four hundred families are said to have just disappeared. The second Fifi is in the record books as the third deadliest Atlantic Hurricane. The second Fifi, like the first Fifi, was also a September storm.
There is always argument about these things, but by some accounts the deadliest Atlantic Hurricane was the Great Hurricane of 1780. On October 9th of that year, it came first to Barbados where it destroyed every house and lifted a heavy cannon, one capable of firing twelve pound projectiles, and carried it 140 yards. The hurricane moved up the Antilles, crossed the Anegada Passage, beat up on the Virgin Islands, it touched Hispaniola where it stripped the bark off trees, which if true would have required an estimated wind speed of over 200mph. It travelled east of the Turks and east of the Bahamas. Observers in the Province of East Florida recorded unusually big waves on their long lonely beaches. The Great Hurricane then travelled east of Bermuda, and was last recorded on October 20th off the south east tip of Newfoundland. Of course in that year of 1780, from Barbados all the way to the Turks and Caicos the might of French, British and Dutch navies where battling for control of the West Indies. A great many of the twenty two to thirty thousand estimated killed by The Great Hurricane were soldiers and sailors lost to the sea. A perspective on these numbers is perhaps to note that in 1780, twelve years before achieving statehood and independence from Virginia, Kentucky had a European and African population of around fifty two thousand. As well from April 19th 1775 to the 1783 Treaty of Paris, eight thousand Americans died in battle, many more died from wounds and other causes, and during those years of the American Insurgents successful insurrection against the English King, forty two thousand British sailors deserted His Majesty's Royal Navy.