1961 Atlantic hurricane season

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1961 Atlantic hurricane season
Season summary map
Season summary map
First storm formed: July 20, 1961
Last storm dissipated: Nov. 11, 1966
Strongest storm: Hattie - 920 mbar (27.17 inHg),Carla 150 knots (175 mph)
Total storms: 11
Major storms (Cat. 3+) 7
Total damages: $391.6 million
(1962 USD)
Total fatalites: 345
Atlantic hurricane seasons
1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963

The 1961 Atlantic hurricane season was an ongoing event in the annual cycle of tropical cyclone formation. It officially started June 1, 1961, and lasted until November 30, 1961.

Notable storms of 1961 include Hurricane Carla, which killed 46 caused $408 million ($2.5 billion in 2000 dollars) in damage, and Hurricane Hattie, which killed 200 and heavy damage in Central America.

7 major hurricanes is the second highest number on record. Also having 7 major hurricanes out of 8 hurricanes, this season has an unusually high proportion of major hurricanes.

Until Hurricane Rita became the second category 5 storm of the 2005 season, this season was the most recent to have two Category 5's; the only other time was was the previous year



Hurricane Anna

The Intertropical Convergence Zone developed a tropical storm on July 20 over the southern Leeward Islands. An upper level anticyclone allowed continued development, and Anna became a hurricane that night while moving westward across the Caribbean Sea. Anna continued to intensify, and reached her peak of 115 mph the next day. It maintained that intensity until the 23rd, when land interaction with Honduras weakened it to a Category 2. There, Anna caused heavy flooding as it continued westward. It reached the coast of Belize on the 24th as a minimal hurricane, and dissipated shortly thereafter. Anna caused a total of $300,000 in damage (1961 dollars) and 1 death in Honduras.

Hurricane Betsy

A westward moving tropical wave became Tropical Storm Betsy on September 2 in the Tropical Atlantic. It moved northwestward with favorable conditions aloft, and steadily strengthened until its peak of 140 mph on the 5th. A trough off the east coast of the United States pushed Betsy northeastward, where it maintained hurricane strength until the 11th, west-southwest of Ireland. Betsy became extratropical on the 12th, and dissipated that day. It was one of three active hurricanes from September 7th to the 11th, a relatively rare event.

Hurricane Carla

Main article Hurricane Carla

Hurricane Carla caused 200 deaths and $2.5 billion (2000 dollars) in damage when it made landfall near Port Lavaca, Texas. Carla was one of the most intense hurricanes to make landfall in the United States, with a central pressure of 27.49" and estimated wind speeds of 150 mi/h. Although the scale did not exist in 1961, Carla is now considered to be a Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Hurricane Debbie

The precursor to Hurricane Debbie was a tropical wave that moved off the coast of Africa. It became tropical storm Debbie on September 6th, and it reached hurricane strength on the 7th. It moved northwestward, reaching a peak intensity of 120 mph on the 11th, but a trough of low pressure pushed Debbie northeastward towards unfavorable conditions. As Debbie raced northeastward, it maintained tropical characteristics until the 16th, when it became extratropical just southwest of Ireland. The renmants of the hurricane caused heavy damage across the United Kingdom, causing 11 deaths in Ireland.

Hurricane Esther

On September 10th, a tropical wave in the central tropical Atlantic developed into a tropical depression. It moved northwestward initially, becoming Tropical Storm Esther on the next day. Intensification continued, with Esther reaching hurricane strength on the 12th. It would have likely turned north and gone out to sea, but with Debbie leaving behind high pressures to the north, Esther turned westward, where it became a major hurricane on the 13th. For the next four days, intensification was halted, but on the 18th, it reached its peak of 140 mph while heading towards the east coast of the United States. Luckily for the Mid-Atlantic, it turned northeastward, where a New England threat materialized. When it approached the Massachusetts coastline on the 21st, a shortwave trough pushed Esther southward, saving New England from a major hurricane landfall. Cooler waters weakened the hurricane to a tropical storm, and while looping back to the south, it was only a weak tropical storm. Another shortwave trough pulled Esther northward, and the tropical storm hit the coast of Maine on the 26th, dissipating on the 27th. Esther was responsible for $6,000,000 in damage (1961 dollars), but no deaths were reported.

Hurricane Frances

A westward moving tropical wave organized into a tropical depression on September 30, east of the northern Lesser Antilles. It crossed the islands the next day as a tropical storm, and turned northward as a disorganized system. The lack of divergence at high levels disallowed further strengthening until later. Frances hit the eastern tip of Hispaniola on the 3rd, and continued north and northeastward. It was able to finally organize on the 4th, and Frances steadily strengthened to a 130 mph major hurricane. It turned to the northwest and posed a threat to Maine, but it turned abrubtly right. Moving over cooler waters, Frances gradually lost intensity, and became extratropical on the 9th near Nova Scotia.

Tropical Storm Gerda

The precursor to Tropical Storm Gerda was a tropical wave that developed on October 16th in the Caribbean Sea. The tropical depression moved slowly northward, moving over Jamaica that night and Cuba the next day. Upper level shear kept the depression disorganized, but when it reached the Atlantic, the shear relaxed somewhat, allowing the depression to become a tropical storm on the 19th. Shortly after reaching a peak of 70 mph on the 20th while racing to the northeast, Gerda became extratropical, retaining its circulation for 2 more days until dissipating. Gerda caused 5 deaths in Jamaica and 7 in Cuba.

Hurricane Hattie and Tropical Storm Inga

Hurricane Hattie

Main article Hurricane Hattie

Hurricane Hattie, which formed in the Caribbean Sea on October 27th, hit Central America as a strong Category 4, and caused enormous damage in Central America, with an estimated death toll of 265, almost all in Belize. Advance warning of the storm is credited with reducing the number of fatalities, as the storm was reportedly worse than the hurricane that struck there in 1931, killing 2000 people. Hattie destroyed an estimated 40% of all buildings in Belize, and damaged half of those that remained. Like Carla, Hattie was also classified posthumously as a Category 5 storm. Hattie held Category 5 intensity on the dates of October 30 and October 31, making it the latest Category 5 storm on record in the Atlantic basin.

Tropical Storm Simone

When Hattie emerged into the Eastern Pacific, part of the cloud mass restrengthened into Tropical Storm Simone on November 1st. It moved northwestward, and after reaching a peak of 50 mph, hit southern Mexico. It dissipated on the 3rd over the Bay of Campeche.

Tropical Storm Inga

When Simone moved into the Gulf of Mexico, another area of Hattie's renmants developed into a tropical storm on November 5th, the only time a tropical storm formed in the Gulf in the month of November. Inga's center moved westward, followed by a new center forming to the southeast. It drifted over the Bay of Campeche for the next few days, and after reaching a peak of 70 mph, dissipated on the 8th.

Hurricane Jenny

An area of disturbed weather, in connection with the development of a cut-off low in the upper troposphere over Puerto Rico, became a tropical depression over the northeastern Lesser Antilles on November 1st. After moving northeastward, the tropical depression moved eastward in response to an upper level trough. Subtropical in nature, it was able to withstand the shear, and, after looping back to the west, became a tropical storm on the 6th. Later that day, Jenny became a hurricane, but as it turned northeastward, shear and cooler waters weakened it. Jenny became extratropical on the 8th.

Other Storms

Tropical Storm Six

A tropical depression formed over the Bahamas on September 12th. It moved northward, and became a tropical storm just after hitting near Wilmington, North Carolina on the 14th. It remained weak as it raced through the East Coast states, dissipating on the 15th in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

1961 storm names

The following names were used for named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes) that formed in the North Atlantic in 1961. The names Carla and Hattie were later retired.

  • Anna
  • Betsy
  • Carla
  • Debbie
  • Esther
  • Frances
  • Gerda
  • Hattie
  • Inga
  • Jenny
  • Kara (unused)
  • Laurie (unused)
  • Martha (unused)
  • Netty (unused)
  • Orva (unused)
  • Peggy (unused)
  • Rhoda (unused)
  • Sadie (unused)
  • Tanya (unused)
  • Virgy (unused)
  • Wenda (unused)

See also

External link

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