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The 10 Most Deadly Late Season Hurricanes

Science has always fascinated me. This includes not only the ecological sciences, which I studied in school, but other endeavors, as well.

Hurricane Forecasting Today

A NOAA hurricane hunter in action

A NOAA hurricane hunter in action

Hurricane Season

For anybody that lives near the Gulf of Mexico, within the South Atlantic states of the US, or anywhere in the Caribbean, hurricane season is more than just a categorization used by weathermen. It is a reoccurring summer-fall reality that tropical weather could move in and wreck havoc. Fortunately, we now have weather satellites, hurricane hunting aircraft, and vast computer networks than can keep everyone informed of any impending cyclonic activity.

Keep in mind that in the past it hasn't always been this way, for a hurricane could show up anytime with little or no warning. The following is a list and description of the ten most deadly late season storms. You may recognize a few of these storms, but many occurred over the past centuries, when the only warning might be unusual weather changes that might be observed from the place where you lived.

The Proverbial Deserted Island

This particular island is not a good place to be during a hurricane,

This particular island is not a good place to be during a hurricane,

How To Tell If a Hurricane Is Approaching If you Are on a Deserted Caribbean Island

I sure hope that nobody ever finds themselves in this predicament, but here is how to tell if a hurricane is approaching without the aid of any modern-day weather forecasting equipment. In earlier centuries, personal observations were about the only way to foretell the arrival of a hurricane.

1. Cirrus clouds form near the horizon, followed by a possible yellowing of the skies.

2. Ocean swells start to pick up.

3. A slight increase in wind speed and a shift in wind direction. Depending on storm location winds could come from almost any direction. Since hurricanes are just oversized low pressure systems, if a hurricane is approaching from the south or southeast direction, the wind will pick-up and shift to the east.

4. The barometric pressure drops quickly and significantly. If you don't have a barometer, you might be able to sense the pressure drop.

5. Rain arrives in bands accompanied by increasing winds. This means the hurricane could possibly arrive full force within 24 hours. It could also mean that you will experience a near miss with just tropical force winds and heavy rain.

The List

Following is a list of the ten most deadly hurricanes to occur in the last 500 years. The storms are listed in order according to the estimated number of casualties. Since hurricanes did not receive names until the mid-fifties, many of the storms are described by year and location.

Hurricane Noel 2007

Tropical Storm Noel hit western Haiti and eastern Cuba on Nov. 1, 2007, a Day of the Dead present for the two islands. Then, Noel veered north towards the Bahamas, where it became a Cat 1 hurricane. The deadliest results were in Haiti, where 163 people perished in mudslides, by-products from the enormous amounts of rain that fell on this mountainous country.

Snow in West Virginia

This early November Appalachian snowstorm was attributed to winds wrapping around the north side of Hurricane Sandy

This early November Appalachian snowstorm was attributed to winds wrapping around the north side of Hurricane Sandy

A Hurricane with Snow

Everybody should remember Sandy, the powerful storm that hit the New Jersey shoreline just before the 2012 presidential elections. Overall, about 200 people perished in this storm. A few fatalities occurred in Haiti and Cuba before the storm turned north and made landfall in the U.S., where the greatest lost of life occurred. In the United States, Sandy hit the NY tri-state area just before Halloween with 80 mph winds (Cat 1) and a devastating 13 foot storm surge.

Hurricane Seven of 1912

The Jamaican Hurricane of 1912 formed in early November in the southern Caribbean Sea near Nicaragua. Then it drifted northward hitting Jamaica from the southwest. This Cat 3 storm did a lot of damage to the Southwest coast, especially the towns of Savanna-la-Mar and Port Antonio. According to newspaper reports, a large tidal wave (storm surge) hit these places, causing much loss of life. There was also some interior flooding. In the end, over 200 died in this storm.

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Prime Minister Lends a Hand

St. Kitts-Nevis received only minor damage from Irma, as PM, Dr. Timothy Harris, helps with the clean-up.

St. Kitts-Nevis received only minor damage from Irma, as PM, Dr. Timothy Harris, helps with the clean-up.

St. Kitt Island 1758

Today, Saint Kitts is a small island in the Leeward Islands that was visited by hurricane Irma. Amazingly, both Saint Kitts and its sister island, Nevis, survived without the massive destruction and loss of life that was experienced by other nearby places.

Unfortunately, things turned out different back in November 1758, when an unnamed storm swept in from the west and killed over 200 people.

Upper Texas Coast 1527

This un-named historical event hit the port of Galveston in November 1527 and decimated a merchant fleet that was anchored behind the barrier island. Modern estimates put the death toll at around 200.

The 1590 Gulf of Mexico Hurricane

The 1590 Gulf of Mexico storm was another late-season hurricane that did tremendous damage to shipping, by taking over a thousand lives in the Gulf of Mexico. Since historical accounts are sketchy, It is not even known, if this storm ever came ashore in Texas or anywhere else along the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Gordon 1994

Gordon was just a Cat 1 hurricane, when it hit Haiti in 1994. Despite the relatively low wind speeds, Gordon managed to kill over 1100 people on the Caribbean Island. Haiti, perhaps the poorest nation in the Atlantic Basin, shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic.

One reason that a tropical cyclone approaching Haiti often brings bad news, is that the land has been heavily deforested, so when tropical rains arrive, they can create much death and destruction. Hurricane Gordon did just that in November of 1994, when it approached from the west.

The Great Cuba Hurricane of 1932

The 1932 November hurricane that hit southeastern Cuba was the most deadly tropical system to ever make landfall on the island nation. All in all, over 3,000 people perished, as this deadly storm plowed into the Cayman Islands after it left Cuba.

Also known, as the Hurricane of Santa Cruz del Sur, this storm moved in from the west passing well south of Guatanamo Bay, before it turned to the northeast and decimated the Camaguey province as a Cat 4 hurricane. Storm surge, aided by poor weather forecasting, was the most destructive feature of this late season hurricane.

Mitch Drowns Thosands

Tropical Storm flooded Tegucigalpa, capitol of Honduras, in 1998

Tropical Storm flooded Tegucigalpa, capitol of Honduras, in 1998

Hurricane Mitch 1998

Mitch was another October Hurricane that came into Central America in 1998 and dropped an amazing amount of rain, 35 inches in some places. Although it reached Cat 5 strength while traversing the Caribbean, it came ashore in Honduras, as a minimal hurricane that quickly weakened to a tropical storm. While negotiating the mountainous regions of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, Mitch unleashed huge downpours, creating massive mudslides and floods. All total there were 11,000 known dead and perhaps just as many missing, making it the second deadliest hurricane of all time.

Ships at Sea

Scores of ships were lost during the Great Hurricane of 1780, mezzotint by William Elliot in 1784

Scores of ships were lost during the Great Hurricane of 1780, mezzotint by William Elliot in 1784

The Great Hurricane of 1780

This mid-October tempest was a Cat 5 monster that roared through the Lesser Antilles with winds as high as 200 mph. Modern day estimates put the death toll at over 20,000 making this the mostly deadly tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Basin, since record-keeping began some 500 years ago.

It is believed that the storm first hit Barbados, then St. Lucia and Martinique, which are all part of the Windward Islands. Eventually the storm weakened and brushed by Puerto Rico, eventually reaching Hispaniola. One reason the death toll was so high was due to a large number of French, British and Dutch warships in the region. The storm sank many of the boats with the French losing as many as 40 ships and thousands of crew members.

Hurricanes Deciphered

1780 Atlantic Hurricane Season Animation

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