October hurricanes are historically deadly

By Bill Read, KPRC Local 2 Hurricane Expert
Published On: Oct 12 2012 10:02:08 AM CDT
Updated On: Oct 12 2012 10:03:03 AM CDT

We are entering the end of the active period of the Atlantic Hurricane season. 

As shown in the graph, the middle of October stays pretty active.  After the 20th, development drops off rapidly. 

While October hurricanes are a rare event for the Texas coast, they're not so in the Caribbean.  Some of the strongest and deadliest Atlantic hurricanes on record have been in October.  Most recently, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 recorded the lowest pressure ever for an Atlantic hurricane.  Hurricane Mitch, Oct. 22 through Nov. 3, 1998, was devastating in Central America with over 11,000 lives lost mainly due to flash flooding and mudslides.  Mitch is the second deadliest Atlantic Hurricane we know of.

The 1780 hurricane season was marked by three of the deadliest storms ever, all in October and all in the Caribbean. 

The first one that deadly October killed upwards of 3,000 people when it passed over Jamaica.

The worst of these was simply called the Great Hurricane and is the deadliest known Atlantic hurricane.  This storm likely formed east of the island of Barbados and moved slowly through the islands of the eastern Caribbean. At the time, a sizeable population had been established in the region by the French and British.  Both nations had large naval fleets in the area, partly due to their role in the American Revolution.  These colonial developments provide us with a pretty good documentation of the impacts of hurricanes of that period as they crossed the islands.  The Great Hurricane completely wiped out the island of Barbados with wind gusts estimated up to 200 mph.  The loss of life on Barbados through Puerto Rico exceeded 15,000.  Another 5,000 or more men were lost at sea as the ships of the fleets were destroyed. 

The third deadly 1780 October hurricane was called Solano’s Hurricane.  Solano was in charge of a Spanish war fleet sailing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.  The hurricane struck the fleet causing many to sink and resulting in the loss of 2000 soldiers and sailors.  The commander of the soldiers on board was one Bernado de Galvez.  

I shudder to think of the impacts of three such storms occurring today.

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