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1893 - Sea Islands Hurricane

On August 27, 1893 a major hurricane which came to be known as the Sea Islands Hurricane struck the United States near Savannah, Georgia. It was one of two deadly hurricanes during the 1893 Atlantic hurricane season; the storm killed an estimated 1,0002,000 people, mostly from storm surge.

Storm history

Modern analysis of historical records has allowed the history of this storm to be pieced together, although the analysis is only estimations since few accurate meteorological records were taken.

On 15 August, a tropical storm formed east of the Cape Verde Islands. It likely passed directly though islands on the 16th, leaving their vicinity during the evening of the 17th. It become a hurricane on the 19th, while crossing the Atlantic between the Cape Verde Islands and the Lesser Antilles. The hurricane continued to strengthen, attaining Category 3 status on 22 August while located northeast of the Lesser Antilles. By the evening of the 25th, the storm was approaching the Bahamas. During the approach it began to deviate from its westerly course and arc west-northwest. It is believed that the first effects of the storm were beginning to be felt in the Sea Islands area, with the winds steadily increasing during the night of the 25th.

Some of the inhabitants anticipated the storm and left the islands as quickly as possible. The conditions soon rapidly deteriorated on the island and the hurricane passed over sometime on the 26th. By now the hurricane was turning more and more towards the north. It moved parallel to the coast for about one hundred miles before making landfall.

Landfall occurred near Savannah, Georgia on 27 August. Reports from the time say that wind during landfall was around 120 mph. Pressure in Savannah was measured at 960 mbar; modern estimates put the pressure around 954 mbar at landfall and possibly as low as 931mbar out at sea, which would have most likely made the hurricane a Category 3 storm on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale. The hurricane passed north over South Carolina on August 28 and moved up the U.S. East Coast before becoming extratropical over Atlantic Canada.

Impact

The hurricane carried with it a heavy storm surge (16 feet, according to Clara Barton), which caused great destruction along the coastline and offshore Sea Islands in Georgia and South Carolina. An estimated 1,000 to 2,000 people were killed (mostly by drowning), putting it on-par with 2005's Hurricane Katrina as the 2nd most deadly hurricane in US history. This estimate is quite conservative, though, considering the large populations of poor rural African-Americans in the area who had little means of reporting casualties. 30,000 or more were left homeless as nearly every building along the barrier islands was damaged beyond repair.

Although the hurricane had been devastating, the American Red Cross did not arrive until 1 Oct, possibly because of ongoing efforts because of another hurricane that had hit South Carolina in June. After the Red Cross arrived, a warehouse of clothing and food was started Beaufort, South Carolina in order to provide services to the affected. Unfortunately, relief efforts were impeded by a second category 3 hurricane that struck just north of the area, near Charleston, South Carolina, on October 13. During a massive 10-month relief campaign, success was declared, with the Sea Islands population living in decent houses producing their own food again.

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