Hurricane Betsy
Overview
 
Hurricane Betsy was a Category 4 hurricane of the 1965 Atlantic hurricane season
1965 Atlantic hurricane season
The 1965 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, 1965, and lasted until November 30, 1965. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin....

 which caused enormous damage in the Bahamas, 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...

, and Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

. Betsy made its most intense landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, causing significant flooding of the waters of Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish estuary located in southeastern Louisiana. It is the second-largest inland saltwater body of water in the United States, after the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the largest lake in Louisiana. As an estuary, Pontchartrain is not a true lake.It covers an area of with...

 into New Orleans. As it was mistakenly known as the first hurricane to cause over a billion dollars in damage (1965 dollars, not adjusted for inflation), it earned the nickname "Billion-Dollar Betsy".
Betsy formed east of Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, USA. According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city has a population of 64,211. Daytona Beach is a principal city of the Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which the census bureau estimated had...

, and seemed to be on its way to hit the Carolinas, it turned back toward the southwest (making a second complete loop), passing over the Bahamas where winds on Great Abaco Island reached 147 mph (237 km/h).
Encyclopedia
Hurricane Betsy was a Category 4 hurricane of the 1965 Atlantic hurricane season
1965 Atlantic hurricane season
The 1965 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, 1965, and lasted until November 30, 1965. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin....

 which caused enormous damage in the Bahamas, 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...

, and Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

. Betsy made its most intense landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, causing significant flooding of the waters of Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish estuary located in southeastern Louisiana. It is the second-largest inland saltwater body of water in the United States, after the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the largest lake in Louisiana. As an estuary, Pontchartrain is not a true lake.It covers an area of with...

 into New Orleans. As it was mistakenly known as the first hurricane to cause over a billion dollars in damage (1965 dollars, not adjusted for inflation), it earned the nickname "Billion-Dollar Betsy".

Meteorological history

Betsy formed east of Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach is a city in Volusia County, Florida, USA. According to 2008 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city has a population of 64,211. Daytona Beach is a principal city of the Deltona – Daytona Beach – Ormond Beach, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area, which the census bureau estimated had...

, and seemed to be on its way to hit the Carolinas, it turned back toward the southwest (making a second complete loop), passing over the Bahamas where winds on Great Abaco Island reached 147 mph (237 km/h). Betsy travelled just north of Nassau
Nassau, Bahamas
Nassau is the capital, largest city, and commercial centre of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The city has a population of 248,948 , 70 percent of the entire population of The Bahamas...

, the biggest city in the Bahamas, where it stalled for about three hours, allowing its winds to pound the city.

On September 7, Betsy continued moving toward the southwest toward extreme southern 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...

. It passed over Key Largo
Key Largo
Key Largo is an island in the upper Florida Keys archipelago and, at long, the largest of the Keys. It is also the northernmost of the Florida Keys in Monroe County, and the northernmost of the Keys connected by U.S. Highway 1...

 at the eastern end of the Florida Keys
Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...

 on September 8, and then continued west along the Keys, as a Category 3
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale , or the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale , classifies hurricanes — Western Hemisphere tropical cyclones that exceed the intensities of tropical depressions and tropical storms — into five categories distinguished by the intensities of their sustained winds...

 hurricane. Hurricane-force winds were experienced in the Miami
Miami, Florida
Miami is a city located on the Atlantic coast in southeastern Florida and the county seat of Miami-Dade County, the most populous county in Florida and the eighth-most populous county in the United States with a population of 2,500,625...

 area for roughly twelve hours. At its landfall on Key Largo, Betsy had an exceptionally large eye
Eye (cyclone)
The eye is a region of mostly calm weather found at the center of strong tropical cyclones. The eye of a storm is a roughly circular area and typically 30–65 km in diameter. It is surrounded by the eyewall, a ring of towering thunderstorms where the second most severe weather of a cyclone...

 (40 miles (65 km) in diameter).

After crossing Florida Bay
Florida Bay
Florida Bay is the bay located between the southern end of the Florida mainland and the Florida Keys. Its area is variously stated to be , or , or . Nearly all of Florida Bay is included in Everglades National Park. The southern edge, along the Florida Keys is in the Florida Keys National Marine...

 and entering the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

, Betsy restrengthened, growing into a Category 4 storm with winds up to 155 mph (250 km/h), only one mile per hour short of qualifying for Category 5 status. It continued northwestward, moving into Barataria Bay
Barataria Bay
Barataria Bay, also Barrataria Bay, is a bay of the Gulf of Mexico that is located in southeastern Louisiana, in Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish, United States....

 on the evening of September 9. It made its second U.S. landfall at Grand Isle, Louisiana
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Grand Isle is a town in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, located on a barrier island of the same name in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is at the mouth of Barataria Bay where it meets the gulf. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 1,541; during summers, the population sometimes increases to...

, just west of the mouth of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, where it destroyed almost every building. At the time of landfall in Louisiana, Betsy was a strong Category 3 storm. The storm travelled upriver, causing the Mississippi at New Orleans
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a major United States port and the largest city and metropolitan area in the state of Louisiana. The New Orleans metropolitan area has a population of 1,235,650 as of 2009, the 46th largest in the USA. The New Orleans – Metairie – Bogalusa combined statistical area has a population...

 to rise by 10 feet (3 m).


Preparations

The Baton Rouge
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Baton Rouge is the capital of the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is located in East Baton Rouge Parish and is the second-largest city in the state.Baton Rouge is a major industrial, petrochemical, medical, and research center of the American South...

 weather bureau warned residents to get extra food that would not have to be cooked, or with little preparation. They also warned residents to store a water supply, have flashlights or other emergency light sources, and keep them at the ready. In addition, residents were told to fill the gasoline tanks of their cars, and check to make sure their battery powered radios had fully charged batteries in them, and to secure any small boats immediately.

Impact

Betsy was one of the most intense, deadly, and costly storms to make landfall in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The storm killed 76 people in Louisiana
Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

. Betsy caused $1.42 billion in damage, which when adjusted for inflation amounts to $10–12 billion (2005 USD
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

). Betsy was the first hurricane to cause damage in excess of $1 billion (based on damage at the time of the storm—many storms before then have inflation-adjusted damage over $1 billion); the storm thus earned the nickname "Billion-Dollar Betsy".

Gulf of Mexico

Eight offshore oil platforms were destroyed during Betsy, with others experiencing damage. A Shell
Royal Dutch Shell
Royal Dutch Shell plc , commonly known as Shell, is a global oil and gas company headquartered in The Hague, Netherlands and with its registered office in London, United Kingdom. It is the fifth-largest company in the world according to a composite measure by Forbes magazine and one of the six...

 oil platform off the Mouth of the Mississippi river was not seen again. The oil rig Maverick, owned by future president George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

's Zapata corporation also disappeared during the cyclone. It was insured by Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's of London
Lloyd's, also known as Lloyd's of London, is a British insurance and reinsurance market. It serves as a partially mutualised marketplace where multiple financial backers, underwriters, or members, whether individuals or corporations, come together to pool and spread risk...

 for US$5.7 million (1965 dollars).

Louisiana

Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans on the evening of September 9, 1965. 110 mi/h winds and power failures were reported in New Orleans. The eye of the storm passed to the southwest of New Orleans on a northwesterly track. The northern and western eyewalls covered Southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans area from about 8 pm until 4 am the next morning. In Thibodaux
Thibodaux, Louisiana
Thibodaux is a small city in and the parish seat of Lafourche Parish, Louisiana, United States, along the banks of Bayou Lafourche in the northwestern part of the parish. The population was 14,431 at the 2000 census. Thibodaux is a principal city of the Houma–Bayou Cane–Thibodaux...

 winds of 130 mi/h to 140 mi/h were reported. The Baton Rouge weather bureau operated under auxiliary power, without telephone communication. Around 1 am, the worst of the wind and rain was over.

Betsy also drove a storm surge
Storm surge
A storm surge is an offshore rise of water associated with a low pressure weather system, typically tropical cyclones and strong extratropical cyclones. Storm surges are caused primarily by high winds pushing on the ocean's surface. The wind causes the water to pile up higher than the ordinary sea...

 into Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain
Lake Pontchartrain is a brackish estuary located in southeastern Louisiana. It is the second-largest inland saltwater body of water in the United States, after the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the largest lake in Louisiana. As an estuary, Pontchartrain is not a true lake.It covers an area of with...

, just north of New Orleans, and the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, a deep-water shipping channel to the east and south. Levees for the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet along Florida Avenue in the Lower Ninth Ward
Lower Ninth Ward
Lower Ninth Ward is a neighborhood of the city of New Orleans. As the name implies, it is part of the Ninth Ward of New Orleans. The Lower Ninth Ward is often thought of as the entire area within New Orleans downriver of the Industrial Canal; however, the City Planning Commission divides this...

 and on both sides of the Industrial Canal failed. The flood water reached the eaves
Eaves
The eaves of a roof are its lower edges. They usually project beyond the walls of the building to carry rain water away.-Etymology:"Eaves" is derived from Old English and is both the singular and plural form of the word.- Function :...

 of houses in some places and over some one story roofs in the Lower Ninth Ward. Some residents drowned in their attics trying to escape the rising waters.

These levee breaches flooded parts of Gentilly
Gentilly, New Orleans
Gentilly is a broad, predominantly middle-class and racially diverse section of New Orleans, Louisiana. The first part of Gentilly to be developed was along the Gentilly Ridge, a long stretch of high ground along the former banks of Bayou Gentilly...

, the Upper Ninth Ward, and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans as well as Arabi
Arabi, Louisiana
Arabi is a census-designated place in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana on the East Bank of the Mississippi River, between the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana and Chalmette within the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan area...

 and Chalmette
Chalmette, Louisiana
Chalmette is a census-designated place in and the parish seat of St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, United States. The population was 32,069 at the 2000 census. It is part of the New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area...

 in neighboring St. Bernard Parish. President Lyndon Johnson visited the city, promising New Orleans Mayor Vic Schiro federal aid.

It was ten days or more before the water level in New Orleans went down enough for people to return to their homes. It took even longer than that to restore their flooded houses to a livable condition. Those who did not have family or friends with dry homes had to sleep in the shelters at night and forage for supplies during the day, while waiting for the federal government to provide emergency relief in the form of trailers. In all, 164,000 homes were flooded at the second landfall.

Evidence suggests that cheap construction and poor maintenance of the structures led to the failure of the levees. However, popular rumor persists that they were intentionally breached, possibly as a means of salvaging the more prosperous French Quarter
French Quarter
The French Quarter, also known as Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighborhood in the city of New Orleans. When New Orleans was founded in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville, the city was originally centered on the French Quarter, or the Vieux Carré as it was known then...

. This is, however, unlikely; even though the French Quarter is one of the geographically highest neighborhoods in the city, during the first eighty years of the 20th century, the French Quarter was, in fact, an unfashionable neighborhood, populated mostly by lower income people, who were not priced out of the market until well into the 1980s.


Aftermath

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Hurricane Protection Program came into existence as a result of Betsy. The Corps built new levees for New Orleans that were both taller and made of stronger material, designed specifically to resist a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane like Betsy. The resulting levee improvements failed when Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina
Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was a powerful Atlantic hurricane. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall...

, a large, slow-moving, intense hurricane made landfall near New Orleans on August 29, 2005.

Retirement

Because of the significance of its damage in the Bahamas, southern Florida and the Gulf Coast, the name Betsy was retired from the recurring list of names; the name "Betsy" will never again be used for an Atlantic hurricane. It was replaced by the name Blanche for the 1969 season. Lightnin' Hopkins
Lightnin' Hopkins
Sam John Hopkins better known as Lightnin’ Hopkins, was an American country blues singer, songwriter, guitarist and occasional pianist, from Houston, Texas...

 later wrote a blues song called Hurricane Betsy.

See also


External links

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