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Friday, September 2, 2011


I will be updating this with info from 2006 to current soon, keep checking back.


               Continuous weather records for the Hampton Roads Area of Virginia began on January 1, 1871 when the National Weather Service was established in downtown Norfolk.  The recorded history of significant tropical storms that affected the area goes back much further.  Prior to 1871, very early storms have been located in ship logs, newspaper accounts, history books, and countless other writings.  The residents of coastal Virginia during Colonial times were very much aware of the weather.  They were a people that lived near the water and largely derived their livelihood from the sea.  To them, a tropical storm was indeed a noteworthy event.  The excellent records left by some of Virginia’s early settlers and from official records of the National Weather Service are summarized below.  Learning from the past will help us prepare for the future.

1635 August 24  First historical reference to a major hurricane that could have affected the Virginia Coast.
1667 Sept. 6        It appears likely this hurricane caused the widening of the Lynnhaven River. The Bay rose 12 feet above normal and many people had to flee.
1693 Oct. 29       From the Royal Society of London.  There happened a most violent storm in Virginia which stopped the course of ancient channels and made some where there never were any.
1749 Oct. 19       Tremendous hurricane.  A sand spit of 300 acres was washed up and with the help of a hurricane in 1806 it became Willoughby Spit.  The Bay rose 15 feet above normal.

Historical records list the following tropical storms as causing significant damage in Virginia:  September
1761; October 1761; September 1769; September 1775; October 1783; September 1785; July 1788.

1806 August 23  Called the Great Coastal Hurricane of 1806.
1821 Sept. 3        One of the most violent hurricanes on record.
1846 Sept. 8        Hatteras and Oregon inlets were formed.
1876 Sept. 17      Average 5 minute wind speed at Cape Henry was 73 mph; 3.32” of rain.
1878 Oct. 23       Cobb and Smith Islands, on the Eastern Shore, were completely submerged.  Average 5 minute wind at Cape Henry was 84 mph.  Eighteen died when the A. S. Davis went ashore near Virginia Beach.
1879 August 18  Tide in Norfolk 7.77 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.  Average 5 minute wind speed at Cape Henry 76 mph with 100 mph estimated gusts.
1887 Oct. 31       Average 5 minute wind speed at Cape Henry 78 mph.  The storm caused a record number of marine disasters.
1893 August 23  Average 5 minute wind speed at Cape Henry 88 mph.
1894 Sept. 29      Five minute wind speed at Cape Henry 80 mph; gusts to 90 mph.
1897 Oct. 25       Lasted 60 hours.  Norfolk tides 8.1 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.
1899 Oct. 31       Average 5 minute wind at Cape Henry 72 mph.  Tide in Norfolk reached 8.9 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.

1903 Oct. 10       Average 5 minute wind speed at Cape Henry 74 mph, the tide in Norfolk reached 9 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.
1924 August 26  Average 1 minute wind speed 72 mph at Cape Henry.
1924 Sept. 30      Fastest 1 minute wind speed in Norfolk 76 mph.
1926 August 22  Fastest 1 minute wind speed in Cape Henry 76 mph.
1928 Sept. 19      Fastest 1 minute wind speed at Cape Henry 72 mph.  The tide reached 7.16 feet above Mean Lower Low Water in Norfolk.
1933 August 23  This hurricane established record high tide of 9.8 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.  18 people died.  Highest 1 minute wind speed in Norfolk was 70 mph, 82 mph at Cape Henry, and 88 mph at NAS, Norfolk.
1933 Sept. 16      Fastest 1 minute wind speed was 88 mph at NAS, Norfolk, 75 mph at the NWS City Office, and 87 at Cape Henry.  The tide reached 8.3 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.
1936 Sept. 18      The fastest 1 minute wind speed was 84 mph at Cape Henry and 68 mph at the NWS City Office.  The tide reached 9.3 feet above Lower Low Water and is the second highest tide of record.
1944 Sept. 14      Fastest 1 minute wind speed was 134 mph at Cape Henry which is the highest speed of record in this area.  Gusts were estimated to 150 mph.  The NWS City Office recorded 72 mph with gusts to 90 mph.
1953 August 14  BARBARA.  The fastest 1 minute wind speed was 72 mph at Cape Henry, 63 mph with gusts to 76 mph at Norfolk Airport.
1954 Oct. 15       HAZEL.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed was 78 mph at Norfolk Airport with gusts to 100 mph which is the highest wind speed of record for the Norfolk Airport location.  A reliable instrument in Hampton recorded 130 mph.
1959 Sept. 30      GRACIE.  Passed through western Virginia.  6.79 inches of rain at Norfolk Airport in 24 hours.  Storm spawned a tornado eight miles west of Charlottesville, killing 11 people.
1960 Sept. 12      DONNA.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed was 73 mph at Norfolk Airport, 80 mph at Cape Henry and estimated 138 mph at Chesapeake Light Ship.  Lowest pressure of 28.65 inches holds the area record for a tropical storm.  3 deaths.
1964 Sept. 1        CLEO.  A storm noted for it’s rain.  11.40 inches of rain in 24 hours is the heaviest in the coastal area since records began in 1871.
1969 August 19  CAMILLE.  Made landfall in Mississippi on August 17.  The storm tracked northward and dumped a record 27 inches of rain in the Virginia mountains, primarily in Nelson County.  Flash flooding took the lives of 153 people.
1971 August 27  DORIA.  The fastest 1 minute wind speed 52 mph at Norfolk Airport and 71 mph at NAS, Norfolk.
1972 June 21      AGNES.  Made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida.  As the storm crossed Virginia, it dumped 13.6 inches of rain on the east slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The James River crested at a record high in Richmond.  Virginia sustained $222 million in damage, and 13 people died from flash flooding.
1979 Sept. 5        DAVID.  Passed through central Virginia.  Spawned 2 severe tornadoes – one in Newport News with over $2 million in damage and one in Hampton with a half million dollars in damage.
1985 Sept. 27      GLORIA.  Passed 45 miles east of Cape Henry.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed WNW 46 mph, peak gust 67 mph at the Airport, NE 94 mph gust to 104 mph at the South Island CBBT.  Highest tide 5.3 feet above Mean Lower Low Water, storm rainfall 5.65 inches and total Virginia damage $5.5 million.
1986 August 17  CHARLEY.  The weak center passed over southeast Virginia Beach.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed NNE 40 mph gust E 63 mph at Norfolk International Airport; NE 94 gust to 104 mph at South Island CBBT; and NE 54 mph gust to 82 mph at Cape Henry.  Highest tide 5.5 feet above Mean Lower Low Water.  Less that $1 million in damage in Virginia.
1996 July 12-13 BERTHA.  Passed over portions of Suffolk and Newport News.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed SE 35 mph gust to 48 mph at Norfolk International Airport.  Bertha spawned 4 tornadoes across east-central Virginia.  The strongest, an F1 tornado moved over Northumberland County injuring 9 persons and causing damages of several million dollars.  Other tornadoes moved over Smithfield, Gloucester and Hampton.
1996 Sept. 5        FRAN.  Passed well west of the area over Danville.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed SE 41 gust to 47 mph at Norfolk International Airport.  Rainfall amounted to only 0.20 of an inch in Norfolk.
1998 August 27  BONNIE.  Tracked over the northern Outer Banks.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed NW 46 mph with gust to 64 mph at Norfolk Airport, NE 90 mph with gust to 104 mph at CBBT.  4-7 inches of rain combined with near hurricane force winds knocked out power to 320,000 customers.  Highest tide 6.0 feet over MLLW.  Most significant storm since 1960.
1999 August 30  DENNIS.  Produced one of the most prolonged period of tropical storm conditions in
         Sept.      4    eastern Virginia.  Fastest 1 minute wind speed NE 43 mph with gust to 53 mph at Norfolk Int’l Airport.  Storm total rainfall 3.30 inches.  Significant beach erosion reported.
1999 Sept. 16      FLOYD.  Passed directly over Virginia Beach on a track similar to Hurricane Donna in 1960.  Lowest pressure of 28.85” (977 MB) at Norfolk Int’l Airport 4th lowest for a hurricane this century.  Fastest 1 minute wind NE 31 mph with gust to 46 mph.  Rainfall 6.80” with amounts of 12-18: in interior portions eastern Virginia.  Franklin, VA reported 500 year flood of record.  Largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. History.

2003 Sept. 18      Isabel: Made landfall near Ocracoke North Carolina. The center passed west of Emporia  and west of Richmond. Fastest 1 minute wind speed NE 54 mph with gusts to 75 mph at Norfolk NAS; NE 61 mph with gusts to 74 mph at the South Island Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Highest tide at Sewells Point was 7.9 feet above MLLW, which was a 5  foot surge. Significant beach erosion was reported. Numerous trees and power lines down over a wide area, with over 2 million households without power in Virginia. Virginia damage was over $625 million, and there were 36 deaths in Virginia directly or indirectly related to the storm.

2004 August 3    Hurricane Alex: Made its closest approach to land on August 3, 2004 with its center located about 9 nm southeast of Cape Hatteras/Outer Banks, NC as a Category 1. Alex  produced locally heavy rainfall across portions of southeast Virginia, but little in the way of damage or flooding.
2004 August 14  Hurricane Charley: Made a second landfall near Cape Romain, SC as a weakening Category 1, after devastating portions of central and southwest Florida. Charley brought locally heavy rainfall and strong winds to much of southeast Virginia, especially near the  coast. A wind gust to 72 mph was recorded at the Chesapeake Light buoy. In the U.S., 10 deaths and $14 billion in damage resulted from Charley.
2004 August 29  Hurricane Gaston: Made landfall near Awendaw, SC, on August 29, 2004 as a Category 1. Gaston weakened as it lifted northward through North Carolina, then northeastward  across southeast Virginia on August 30th. Gaston produced a swath of 5 to 14 inch rains  extending from Lunenburg and Mecklenburg counties northeast into Caroline and Essex  counties. The heaviest rainfall, centered on the Richmond metro area, produced a major flash flood which killed 8 people. Five of these deaths resulted from people driving into flooded roadways. A total of 13 tornadoes were observed in central and eastern Virginia, all producing F0 damage. Total damage is estimated at $130 million.
2004 Sept 8         Hurricane Frances: Made landfall over east central Florida as a Category 2 hurricane. It  then moved northeast into the northern Gulf of Mexico, eventually turning north, making  a second landfall in the panhandle of Florida, and then weakening into a tropical  depression. It tracked through western Virginia, then northeast and offshore the mid- Atlantic coast. A total of six tornadoes were observed in central and eastern Virginia, the strongest producing F1 damage.
2004 Sept 17       Hurricane Ivan: Made landfall near the Florida/Alabama border as a Category 3  hurricane. It weakened to a tropical depression and moved northeast, tracking along the  Appalachian Mountains through western Virginia, then northeast and offshore the mid- Atlantic coast. A total of 40 tornadoes were produced in Virginia, most in central and  northern Virginia. This was a record single day outbreak for Virginia, and exceeded the previous annual tornado record of 31. Most of these tornadoes were F0 or F1 in intensity, although 10 F2 tornadoes and one F3 tornado touched down in south central, west central and northern Virginia.
2004 Sept 28       Hurricane Jeanne: The remnants of Hurricane Jeanne, in the form of a tropical  depression, moved through the vicinities of Greenville, S.c., Roanoke, Va. and   Washington, D.C. and finally to the New Jersey coast on Tuesday, Sept. 28.  Maximum   sustained wind speeds ranged from 25 mph to 30 mph near the storm's center.  The   primary impact on the Commonwealth was flooding, although one F1 tornado touched  down in Pittsylvania County.   The heaviest rainfall occurred from the New River Valley   to the Southern Shenandoah Valley.  Rainfall in this region ranged from 3 inches to 7  inches, with the highest amounts falling in Patrick, eastern Floyd, eastern Montgomery Giles, Roanoke, Botetourt and Rockbridge counties.             
2005                     The 2005 hurricane season broke the record for named storms, producing 26 named  storms, 14 hurricanes and seven intense hurricanes. Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita,  Ophelia and Wilma, and Tropical Storm Cindy caused 12 federal major disaster area  declarations in six states.
                              Hurricanes Katrina and Rita did not strike Virginia, but the Commonwealth felt their  impact. The severity of the storms’ destruction prompted Gov. Mark R. Warner to declare a state of emergency to facilitate the Commonwealth’s ability to help those in the Gulf  States. Virginia sent more than 1,100 state and local personnel to the region through the  Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Through the efforts of many local, state  and nonprofit agencies, a temporary shelter and resource center to serve more than 1,000 evacuees was established at Ft. Pickett, near Blackstone, Va., although the Federal    Emergency Management Agency did not transfer any to Virginia.
2006 Sept 1         Tropical Storm Ernesto: The remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto interacted with an  unusually strong high pressure are over New England to generate strong winds, heavy  rainfall, and storm surge related tidal flooding and damage. Five to eight inch rainfall  amounts were common across central and eastern Virginia. This rainfall caused flooding  in many areas, although no substantial river flooding resulted from the heavy rain. Wind  gusts of 60 to 70 mph occurred on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, as well as areas adjacent  to the Chesapeake Bay from Yorktown northward. Tides were particularly high from  communities adjacent to the York River, northward through the Rappahannock River to tidal portions of the Potomac River. Tides of 4 to 5 feet above normal, combined with 6 to 8 foot waves, caused significant damage to homes, piers, bulkheads, boats, and   marinas across portions of the Virginia Peninsula and Middle Peninsula near the  Chesapeake Bay and adjacent tributaries. Similar damage also occurred in Chincoteague   and Wachapreague on the Virginia Eastern Shore. At some locations on the Middle  Peninsula, Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, the tidal flooding and damage rivaled that  from Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Power outages were widespread across Virginia's Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.

                    Hurricanes come close enough to produce hurricane force winds approximately three times every 20 years.
                    Two or three times a century winds and tides produce considerable damage and significantly threaten life.
                    Three known storms have been powerful enough to alter coastal features.

                    Rainfall. The most common effect of a tropical cyclone passing by Virginia is its associated rainfall. The heaviest rain in a truly tropical cyclone, outside of terrain effects, occurs to the east of the track. However, many systems that pass this far to the north exhibit some non-tropical characteristics, such as cold/dry air wrapping around the west and south sides of the circulation. When this happens, the rainfall distribution changes markedly. The maximum rainfall can then be expected to be just west of the track, and well to the east, outside the reach of the dry air. Severe weather, such as microbursts, tornadoes, and hail tend to be more common with this dry air intrusion, mainly to the east of the track.  To the lower right is a chart of the ten highest rainfall amounts, in the Old Dominion, to be measured in association with a tropical cyclone.
                    Virginia has some special considerations that  can affect rainfall. Mountains to the west act  as a perfect mechanism for upward motion  when a sustained east wind is present, and can lead to flash flooding and landslides in that region. Also, as a tropical system approaches from the south, a baroclinic boundary sets up between the moist Atlantic Ocean and the relatively drier landmass to the  west. This boundary can set up two or three days in advance of a tropical storm, and can lead up to prolonged heavy rains across coastal sections.  As the cyclone advances north, the boundary will slowly shift west, but rarely makes it west of a Richmond/Washington, D.C. line.  

       Heaviest Rains in Virginia from 
      Tropical Cyclones and their Remnants
Amount        Dates                      Location
27.00"           8/19-20/1969        Nelson County
19.77"           11/02-07/1985      2 NE Montebello
18.13"           9/14-16/1999        Yorktown
16.57"           9/14-16/1999        Newport News
16.00"           6/17-24/1972        Chantilly
14.30"           9/14-16/1999        James City
14.30"           9/05-09/1996        Tom's Branch 
14.18"           6/17-24/1972        Centreville
14.17"           9/05-09/1996        Luray 5 SE
13.60"           6/17-24/1972        Big Meadows

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