Hurricane Debbie September 1961

Figure 1

The above reanalysis chart for the 00 UTC on the 12th of September 1961 (fig 1), shows four simultaneously active hurricanes in the North Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. I’m not sure if that’s a unique occurrence, but I came across a mention of it in a book called The Atmospheric System which I’ve just picked up from Abe book. The contouring is not perfect because the reanalysis grid is too coarse at 2.5° x 2.5° to pick up the intensity of each hurricane.

Figure 2

Hurricane Debbie reached a maximum category 3 status, with a minimum pressure of 970 hPa and maximum wind speeds of 105 knots, in it’s life of almost 10 days it travelled 7,688 nautical miles (fig 2). This was very early days for weather satellite imagery, which explains the scarcity of tropical storms (2) listed for the 1961 season in the North Atlantic.

Figure 3

Hurricane Debbie was a classic Cape Verde hurricane that curved north and then northeast to brush across the northwest coast of Ireland as a category 1 hurricane causing the deaths of 17 people as it did so (fig 3). In fact it even hit the cape Verde Islands as a strong tropical storm, and was probably responsible for the death of 60 people in a plane crash on the island at that time. Wikipedia has a very detailed article about Hurricane Debbie, oddly they seem to like using the term ‘storm’ when referring to Debbie, despite referencing an article which is in no doubt that it was a category 1 hurricane at the time, as is the HURDAT2 database, which lists Debbie as a hurricane when it crossed Belmullet in Northwest Ireland, as you can see from the table of 6 hourly positions from it (fig 4).

Figure 4

That article mentioned in Wikipedia is from a book Advances in Hurricane Research – Modelling, Meteorology, Preparedness and Impacts by Kieran R. Hickey and Christina Connolly-Johnston, of the Department of Geography, at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Chapter 9 of the book is called The Impact of Hurricane Debbie (1961) and Hurricane Charley (1986) on Ireland is free to download as a PDF. Here are a couple of interesting effects of hurricane Debbie that I hope the authors don’t mind me taking these snippets from that chapter:

  • At Malin Head on the extreme NW tip of Ireland a gust of 182 kph (92 kts) was recorded. Other exceptional gusts were recorded at Shannon Airport, Rep. of Ireland at 172 kph (93 kts), Ballykelly, Northern Ireland at 171 kph, Tiree, Scotland and Snaefell, Isle of Man both at 167 kph (90 kts), Clones, Rep. of Ireland at 161 kph (87 kts), Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland 159 kph (86 kts) and Mullingar, Rep. of Ireland with 146 kph (78 kts).
  • The severity of the wind can be seen by the fact that as far as 20 km inland all plant life withered and died in a matter of minutes as sea spray laden with salt was carried landward by the wind.
  • A very rare storm-induced tidal bore was recorded as having taken place on the Shannon river near Lanesboro, Co. Longford when the level of the river rose by 1.35 m as the hurricane winds blew water upstream. This reverse flow carried many small boats upstream and onto the river banks leaving them high and dry when the wind changed direction and the river dropped almost equally as suddenly.

Author: xmetman

An ex-metman passionate about all things to do with weather, climate and clouds

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