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Cuba Historic Hurricanes: Hurricane Donna 1960

Hurricane Donna 1960

Hurricane Donna 1960One of the all-time great hurricanes, Donna was first detected as a tropical wave moving off the African coast on August 29. It became a tropical storm over the tropical Atlantic the next day and a hurricane on September 1. Donna followed a general west-northwestward track for the following five days, passing over the northern Leeward Islands on the 4th and 5th as a Category 4 hurricane and then to the north of Puerto Rico later on the 5th. Donna turned westward on September 7 and passed through the southeastern Bahamas. A northwestward turn on the 9th brought the hurricane to the middle Florida Keys the next day at Category 4 intensity. Donna then curved northeastward, crossing the Florida Peninsula on September 11, followed by eastern North Carolina (Category 3) on the 12th, and the New England states (Category 3 on Long Island and Categories 1 to 2 elsewhere) on the 12th and 13th. The storm became extratropical over eastern Canada on the 13th.
Donna is the only hurricane of record to produce hurricane-force winds in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic states, and New England. Sombrero Key, Florida reported 128 mph sustained winds with gusts to 150 mph. In the Mid-Atlantic states, Elizabeth City, North Carolina reported 83 mph sustained winds, while Manteo, North Carolina reported a 120 mph gust. In New England, Block Island, Rhode Island reported 95 mph sustained winds with gusts to 130 mph.
Donna caused storm surges of up to 13 ft in the Florida Keys and 11 ft surges along the southwest coast of Florida. Four to eight ft surges were reported along portions of the North Carolina coast, with 5 to 10 ft surges along portions of the New England coast. Heavy rainfalls of 10 to 15 inches occurred in Puerto Rico, 6 to 12 inches in Florida, and 4 to 8 inches elsewhere along the path of the hurricane.
The landfall pressure of 27.46 inches makes Donna the fifth strongest hurricane of record to hit the United States. It was responsible for 50 deaths in the United States. One hundred and fourteen deaths were reported from the Leeward Islands to the Bahamas, including 107 in Puerto Rico caused by flooding from the heavy rains. The hurricane caused $387 million in damage in the United States and $13 million elsewhere along its path.

The storm was first detected as a tropical wave coming off the African coast on August 29th. Two days later it was upgraded to hurricane status, and took a west-northwest trajectory for the next 5 days while continuing to strengthen into a Category 4 hurricane. Donna made her first

landfall in the Leeward Islands on September 4th and Puerto Rico on the 5th. She then took a westerly course on the 7th and passed over the southeastern Bahamas. Turning northeastward on the 9th as it pummeled the Florida Keys, the hurricane traveled along Florida’s west coast before crossing the Florida Peninsula on September 11th. As it began following the U.S. eastern coast northward, the hurricane picked up forward momentum, and was off the coast of North Carolina by the 12th, still packing Category 3 strength. By late that same day, the storm was still touting hurricane strength and damaging the New England states. Donna finally became extratropical the following day over the Canadian coast.


Donna is the only hurricane on record to have produced hurricane-force winds in Florida, the Mid-Atlantic states and also in New England – giving her status as one of the all-time great hurricanes of U.S. recorded history.

Winds were recorded at 128 mph with gusts to 150 at Sombrero Key, FL; Manteo, NC recorded wind gusts of 120 mph, and Block Island, RI reported winds at 95 mph with gusts to 130 mph. The storm surge in the Florida Keys was 13 ft, and still as high as 5-10 feet in New England. Florida recorded rainfalls up to 12 inches, and other areas along the path of the storm recorded 4-8 inches. 

The death toll attributed to Hurricane Donna was over 150, and damages were estimated at $400 million.

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