Great Hurricane of 1780
Overview
 
The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Hurricane San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster, is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Over 20,000 people died when the storm passed through the Lesser Antilles
Lesser Antilles
The Lesser Antilles are a long, partly volcanic island arc in the Western Hemisphere. Most of its islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, with the remainder located in the southern Caribbean just north of South America...

 in the Caribbean
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 between October 10 and October 16. Specifics on the hurricane's track and strength are unknown since the official Atlantic hurricane database only goes back to 1851.

The hurricane struck Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 with winds possibly exceeding 320 km/h (198.8 mph), before moving past Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

, Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

, and Sint Eustatius; thousands of deaths were reported on each island.
Encyclopedia
The Great Hurricane of 1780, also known as Hurricane San Calixto, the Great Hurricane of the Antilles, and the 1780 Disaster, is the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Over 20,000 people died when the storm passed through the Lesser Antilles
Lesser Antilles
The Lesser Antilles are a long, partly volcanic island arc in the Western Hemisphere. Most of its islands form the eastern boundary of the Caribbean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean, with the remainder located in the southern Caribbean just north of South America...

 in the Caribbean
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 between October 10 and October 16. Specifics on the hurricane's track and strength are unknown since the official Atlantic hurricane database only goes back to 1851.

The hurricane struck Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 with winds possibly exceeding 320 km/h (198.8 mph), before moving past Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

, Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

, and Sint Eustatius; thousands of deaths were reported on each island. Coming in the midst of the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, the storm caused heavy losses to British
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

 and French
Early Modern France
Kingdom of France is the early modern period of French history from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 18th century...

 fleets contesting for control
Naval operations in the American Revolutionary War
The naval operations of the American Revolutionary War , divide themselves naturally into two periods...

 of the area. The hurricane later passed near Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 and over the eastern portion of Hispaniola
Hispaniola
Hispaniola is a major island in the Caribbean, containing the two sovereign states of the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The island is located between the islands of Cuba to the west and Puerto Rico to the east, within the hurricane belt...

 (then Santo Domingo, now the Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

). There, it caused heavy damage near the coastlines. It ultimately turned to the northeast before being last observed on October 20 southeast of Cape Race
Cape Race
Cape Race is a point of land located at the southeastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Its name is thought to come from the original Portuguese name for this cape, "Raso", or "bare"...

, Newfoundland.

The death toll from the Great Hurricane alone exceeds that of any other entire decade of Atlantic hurricanes, and is substantially higher than that of the second-deadliest Atlantic storm, Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch
Hurricane Mitch was the most powerful hurricane and the most destructive of the 1998 Atlantic hurricane season, with maximum sustained winds of 180 mph . The storm was the thirteenth tropical storm, ninth hurricane, and third major hurricane of the season. Along with Hurricane Georges, Mitch...

. The hurricane was part of the disastrous 1780 Atlantic hurricane season
1780 Atlantic hurricane season
The 1780 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and fall in 1780. The 1780 season was extraordinarily destructive, and was the deadliest Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history with over 25,000 deaths...

, with two other deadly storms occurring in the month of October.

Meteorological history

The exact origin of the hurricane is unknown, though modern historians estimate it developed in the usual way near the Cape Verde Islands
Cape Verde
The Republic of Cape Verde is an island country, spanning an archipelago of 10 islands located in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometres off the coast of Western Africa...

, in early October. The system strengthened and grew in size as it tracked slowly westward and first began affecting Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 late on October 9. Late on October 10, the worst of the hurricane passed over the island. Early on October 11, the hurricane turned north-northwest about 90 kilometres (55.9 mi) east of Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

, and later that night it neared the island of Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

. The cyclone gradually weakened as it passed to the southwest of Dominica
Dominica
Dominica , officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of . The Commonwealth...

 early on October 12 and subsequently struck the island of Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is an archipelago located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres and a population of 400,000. It is the first overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. As with the other overseas departments, Guadeloupe...

.

After hitting Guadeloupe, the hurricane turned west-northwest, passing about 145 kilometres (90.1 mi) southwest of Saint Kitts
Saint Kitts
Saint Kitts Saint Kitts Saint Kitts (also known more formally as Saint Christopher Island (Saint-Christophe in French) is an island in the West Indies. The west side of the island borders the Caribbean Sea, and the eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean...

. The hurricane steadily neared Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 as it paralleled the southern coastline, and on October 14 made its closest point of approach, to the southwest portion of the island. It subsequently turned to the northwest, hitting the island of Mona
Mona, Puerto Rico
Mona is the third largest island of the archipelago of Puerto Rico, after the main island of Puerto Rico and Vieques. It is the largest of three islands located in the Mona Passage, a strait between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the others being Monito Island and Desecheo Island...

 in the Mona Passage
Mona Passage
The Mona Passage is a strait that separates the islands of Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. The Mona Passage connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, and is an important shipping route between the Atlantic and the Panama Canal....

 before making landfall near the present-day Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic is a nation on the island of La Hispaniola, part of the Greater Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean region. The western third of the island is occupied by the nation of Haiti, making Hispaniola one of two Caribbean islands that are shared by two countries...

 province of Samaná. Late on October 15 it reached the Atlantic Ocean and after passing about 260 kilometres (161.6 mi) east of Grand Turk Island
Grand Turk Island
Grand Turk Island is an island in the Turks and Caicos Islands. It is the largest island in the Turks Islands with . It contains the territory's capital, Cockburn Town and the JAGS McCartney International Airport...

, it is estimated to have recurved to the northeast. The hurricane passed 240 kilometres (149.1 mi) southeast of Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

 on October 18, and was last observed two days later about 475 kilometres (295.2 mi) southeast of Cape Race
Cape Race
Cape Race is a point of land located at the southeastern tip of the Avalon Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland, Canada. Its name is thought to come from the original Portuguese name for this cape, "Raso", or "bare"...

, Newfoundland.

On October 19, strong winds and high tides were reported in the British province of East Florida
East Florida
East Florida was a colony of Great Britain from 1763–1783 and of Spain from 1783–1822. East Florida was established by the British colonial government in 1763; as its name implies it consisted of the eastern part of the region of Florida, with West Florida comprising the western parts. Its capital...

 (the northeastern portion of present-day Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

). One modern historian suggests the hurricane passed much closer to the province than previously thought. Another possibility considered was an extension to a hurricane in the western Caribbean Sea. Because of lack of data, the exact track of the Great Hurricane is unknown.

Impact

The Great Hurricane persisted near Barbados
Barbados
Barbados is an island country in the Lesser Antilles. It is in length and as much as in width, amounting to . It is situated in the western area of the North Atlantic and 100 kilometres east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea; therein, it is about east of the islands of Saint...

 for about two days, producing violent winds which were described as "so deafening that people could not hear their own voices." The winds stripped the bark off trees before the hurricane downed every tree on the island. This phenomenon has not been observed in any of the strongest modern-day tropical cyclones, so, according to meteorologist Dr. Jose Millas, for it to have been done by winds and rain alone would require winds over 200 mph (320 km/h). The winds also destroyed every house on Barbados. Most ships at the bay broke free of their moorings from the hurricane's rough surf and all forts on the island were destroyed. The winds and seas moved heavy cannons about 100 feet (30.5 m). About 4,500 people died on the island.

In Saint Vincent, the hurricane destroyed 584 of the 600 houses in Kingstown
Kingstown
Kingstown is the chief port of Saint Vincent, and the capital of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With a population of 25,418 Kingstown is a centre for the island's agricultural industry and a port of entry for tourists...

. At Grenada
Grenada
Grenada is an island country and Commonwealth Realm consisting of the island of Grenada and six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines in the southeastern Caribbean Sea...

, 19 Dutch ships were wrecked. On Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 620 km2 and has an...

, rough waves and a strong storm tide
Storm tide
A storm tide is a tide with a high flood period caused by a storm. Storm tides can be a severe danger to the coast and the people living along the coast. The water level can rise to more than 5 meters above the normal tide....

 destroyed the fleet of British Admiral Rodney
George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney
George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, KB was a British naval officer. He is best known for his commands in the American War of Independence, particularly his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782...

 at Port Castries
Castries
Castries , population 10,634, aggl. 37,963 , is the capital city of Saint Lucia, a country in the Caribbean. The district with the same name had a population of 61,341 in 2001-05-22, and stretches over an area of ....

, with one ship destroying the city's hospital by being lifted on top of it. The hurricane destroyed all but two houses at Port Castries, and throughout the island about 6,000 perished.

A fleet of 40 French ships involved in the American Revolutionary War
France in the American Revolutionary War
France entered the American Revolutionary War in 1778, and assisted in the victory of the Americans seeking independence from Britain ....

 capsized as a result of the hurricane off Martinique
Martinique
Martinique is an island in the eastern Caribbean Sea, with a land area of . Like Guadeloupe, it is an overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. To the northwest lies Dominica, to the south St Lucia, and to the southeast Barbados...

; about 4,000 soldiers drowned. The hurricane produced a 25 feet (7.6 m) storm surge on Martinique, destroying all houses in Saint-Pierre
Saint-Pierre, Martinique
Saint-Pierre is a town and commune of France's Caribbean overseas department of Martinique, founded in 1635 by Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc. Before the total destruction of Saint-Pierre in 1902 by a volcanic eruption, it was the most important city of Martinique culturally and economically, being known...

; 9,000 died on the island. Severe damage was reported on Dominica
Dominica
Dominica , officially the Commonwealth of Dominica, is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean Sea, south-southeast of Guadeloupe and northwest of Martinique. Its size is and the highest point in the country is Morne Diablotins, which has an elevation of . The Commonwealth...

, Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe
Guadeloupe is an archipelago located in the Leeward Islands, in the Lesser Antilles, with a land area of 1,628 square kilometres and a population of 400,000. It is the first overseas region of France, consisting of a single overseas department. As with the other overseas departments, Guadeloupe...

, Antigua
Antigua
Antigua , also known as Waladli, is an island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region, the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la...

, and Saint Kitts
Saint Kitts
Saint Kitts Saint Kitts Saint Kitts (also known more formally as Saint Christopher Island (Saint-Christophe in French) is an island in the West Indies. The west side of the island borders the Caribbean Sea, and the eastern coast faces the Atlantic Ocean...

, though it is unknown if any died on those islands. Additionally, many ships were washed ashore on Saint Kitts. A powerful storm surge affected the island of Sint Eustatius, causing 4,000 to 5,000 fatalities.

Heavy damage was reported in southern Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

, primarily in Cabo Rojo
Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Cabo Rojo is a municipality situated on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico and forms part of the San Germán–Cabo Rojo metropolitan area as well as the larger Mayagüez–San Germán–Cabo Rojo Combined Statistical Area....

 and Lajas
Lajas, Puerto Rico
Lajas is a municipality of Puerto Rico located in southwestern region, south of San Germán and Sabana Grande; east of Cabo Rojo; and west of Guánica. Lajas is spread over 11 wards and Lajas Pueblo...

. Severe damage also occurred in the eastern region of Santo Domingo. The hurricane later grounded 50 ships near Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

. Throughout its path, the hurricane killed over 20,000 people, possibly as high as 24,000, making it the deadliest hurricane in Atlantic hurricane history.

See also


Sources

  • The Deadliest Atlantic Tropical Cyclones, 1492–1996, by Edward N. Rappaport and Jose Fernandez-Partagas
  • Natural Disasters: Hurricanes, by Patrick J. Fitzpatrick, ABC-CLIO Inc. 1999, ISBN 1-57607-071-9
  • Dunbar, Transactions of the American [Philosophical] Society, Philadelphia, vol. 6, second series. Philadelphia, 1804.
  • Blodgett, L., Climatology of United States, p. 397, "The Great Hurricane of 1780."
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