The 1909 Atlantic hurricane season was an average Atlantic hurricane season, officially starting on June 1, 1909, and ending on November 30, 1909, dates which conventionally delimit the period of each year when tropical cyclones tend to form in the Atlantic basin. The season produced eleven tropical cyclones, of which all eleven became tropical storms; six became hurricanes, and four of those strengthened into major hurricanes. The seasons first storm developed on June 15, shortly after the official start of the hurricane season, and the last storm dissipated on November 14, shortly before the official end of the hurricane season. The most notable storm during the season formed in late August, while east of the Lesser Antilles. Moving west to west-northwestward, the storm quickly gained hurricane status, and traversed much of the Greater Antilles before strengthening into a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale and crossing the Yucatán Peninsula. Briefly weakening after its interaction with land, it strengthened into a Category 3 once again, and made landfall in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas on August 27 before rapidly dissipating the following day.
The 1909 was very deadly and destructive, featuring 4,614 fatalities, and $75 million (1909 USD), mostly due to the sixth and eighth hurricanes of the season. In mid-July, the fourth storm of the season hit Freeport, Texas, as a Category 3 hurricane, killing 41 people, and causing $2 million in damage. In mid-September, the eighth storm of the season made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana, as a Category 3 hurricane, killing at least 350 people and causing $10 million in damage. The storms storm surge is responsible for destroying thousands of homes, as it penetrated 2 mi (12,000 km/h) inland. In late August, the tenth storm of the season developed, and tracked across Cuba, the Bahamas, and Marathon, Florida, as a Category 3 hurricane. At least $2 million in damage was caused, and 27 deaths were recorded. Lastly, the final storm of the season struck eastern Jamaica and Hispaniola as a hurricane before transitioning into an Extratropical cyclone northeast of the Bahamas. The storm killed 30 people, and caused $7 million in damage.
The first tropical cyclone of the season was first identified as a tropical depression near the southeastern Nicaragua coastline on June 15. Tracking due north, the depression intensified into a tropical storm within 12 hours. Operationally, this system was not classified as a tropical storm as there was uncertainty of tropical storm-force winds being measured. Maintaining a slow, northward movement, the system attained peak winds of 45 mph (75 km/h). On June 18, it gradually turned towards the west, leading to the storm making landfall near Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, the following morning. Once overland, the storm weakened, first to a tropical depression before dissipating near the Nicaragua-Honduras border during the evening of June 19. Due to the weak nature of the system, little information was recorded on it. Throughout its existence, ships in the region suggested a minimum pressure of 1009 mbar (hPa; 29.80 inHg).
In late June, the season's second tropical cyclone developed near the Florida Keys. Its origins are unknown and the first indications of the system were as a tropical storm. After tracking northwest towards Louisiana for about a day. The system sharply changed dirction and took a direct path towards the south Texas coastline. By June 29, it was estimated that the storm intensified into a minimal hurricane, attaining winds of 75 mph (120 km/h). However, operational analysis on the storm in 1999 indicated that it was only a tropical storm. Shortly before the hurricane made landfall near Brownsville, Texas, it attained its peak intensity as a modern-day Category 2 cyclone with winds of 100 mph (155 km/h). A barometric pressure of 972 mbar (hPa; 28.70 inHg) was recorded as the storm moved inland. By June 30, the system weakened to a tropical storm and crossed into northern Mexico; the cyclone dissipated several hours later.
Upon making landfall, the hurricane brought a storm surge exceeding 5 ft (1.5 m), inundating low-lying coastal areas such as Padre Island. Winds up to 48 mph (77 km/h) were recorded as far north as Corpus Christi; however, no known winds were measured where the system made landfall. During a 24 hour-span, 10 in (250 mm) of rain fell in Mercedes, Texas. These heavy rains resulted in substantial flooding along the Rio Grande River over the following week. Near Brownsville, a town in Mexico was mostly flooded after the river broke its banks on July 4. Floods persisted in the country through July 10, leaving behind substantial damage. Though no loss of life took place, total losses from the hurricane reached $1.3 million, almost all of which was attributed to destroyed railroads in Mexico.
On June 26, Tropical Storm Three formed north of Haiti, producing beneficial rains over Cuba. On July 1, the cyclone made landfall near Jupiter, Florida, with 50 mph (85 km/h) winds, producing heavy rain across the state. Tropical Storm Three curved over South Carolina and turned over the Atlantic Ocean before dissipating on July 4.
Activity continued through July, when a tropical depression formed over the southern Lesser Antilles in Mid-July. The storm attained tropical storm strength south of Jamaica, and reached hurricane strength near the western tip of Cuba. It ultimately hit near Freeport, Texas, on July 21 as a Category 3 hurricane; with a 10-foot (3 m) storm surge, this was the first test of Galveston's seawall since its construction after the 1900 Galveston hurricane that killed over 8,000 people. Damage came to $2 million (1909 dollars) and 41 people died.
On August 6, a new tropical depression was identified between Jamaica and Honduras. Tracking northwestward, the system gradually intensified, attaining tropical storm status near the Cayman Islands later that day. On August 7, the storm turned towards the west and reached its peak intensity just off the coast of the Yucatán Peninsula with winds of 45 mph (75 km/h) and a pressure of 1004 mbar (hPa; 29.65 inHg). Hours later, the cyclone made landfall near Cancún and weakened to a tropical depression hours later. Continuing westward, the system moved back over water on August 9, over the Bay of Campeche. Within hours of doing so, it re-attained tropical storm status as its forward motion quickly increased. During the afternoon of August 10, the storm made its final landfall near Tampico, Tamaulipas, before rapidly dissipating over the mountainous terrain of Mexico later that day.
Originating from a tropical storm east of the Leeward Islands on August 20, the storm tracked west-northwest, entering the Caribbean Sea as a minimal hurricane the next day. After striking Hispaniola on August 23, the hurricane made another landfall in eastern Cuba before reentering the Caribbean. Once back over open water, the storm intensified into a Category 3 hurricane and moved across the northern tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. By August 26, the storm had emerged into the Gulf of Mexico as a weakened but regrouping system. It attained its peak winds of 120 mph (185 km/h) that evening. Maintaining this intensity, the system made landfall in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas late on August 27 and rapidly dissipated the following afternoon.
Although the storm impacted several islands in the Caribbean, only Haiti reported damage during the hurricane's passage. In contrast to this, northeastern Mexico received catastrophic flooding from the storm, especially in the city of Monterrey. Throughout Mexico, reports indicated that 4,000 people were killed by the hurricane, making it the tenth deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record. Monetary losses were also estimated to have exceeded $50 million (1909 USD; $1.29 billion 2018 USD).
During early September, a tropical disturbance over the western Atlantic began to strengthen as it moved towards the Lesser Antilles. By September 13, the system had become sufficiently organized to be classified as a tropical depression. Moving west-northwestward, the depression attained tropical storm status near Jamaica on September 15 and hurricane intensity the following day. By September 18, the hurricane had attained winds of 100 mph (155 km/h) as it moved over the western tip of Cuba. After briefly weakening due to its interaction with land, the storm re-intensified over the Gulf of Mexico, attaining winds of 120 mph (185 km/h), becoming the third major hurricane of the season. Maintaining this strength, the storm eventually made landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana, on September 21. Rapid weakening took place as it quickly moved northward, dissipating the following day over Missouri.
In the United States, the hurricane killed at least 350 people and wrought $10 million in damage. Thousands of homes were destroyed by the cyclone's powerful storm surge which penetrated 2 mi (3.2 km) inland. The states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama sustained the most severe damage, especially from strong winds which covered a large area. Outside of the United States, an estimated $1 million in damaged was left by the hurricane in western Cuba.
The Tenth system of the season formed north of the Isle of Youth and hit near Naples, Florida, as a tropical depression on September 25. The system crossed the peninsula of Florida and later strengthened to a 60 mph (95 km/h) tropical storm. By September 29, the cyclone dissipated.
The eleventh storm of the season formed in the Southwest Caribbean Sea on October 6 and became a hurricane over the Northwest Caribbean Sea. It became a major hurricane on October 9, and hit western Cuba on October 11. The storm moved through the Florida Keys as a Category 3 hurricane, and dissipated north of Bermuda on October 13.
In Cuba, five people were killed in Havana and damage was estimated at $1 million. In the Florida Keys, damage neared a million dollars (1909 USD) near Key West and 12 railroad workers drowned.
The final storm of the season formed from a large weather system over the southwestern Caribbean Sea on November 8. Tracking northwestward, the system gradually intensified. On November 11, the storm brushed the eastern tip of Jamaica before attaining hurricane-status several hours later. During the afternoon of November 12, the hurricane made landfall in northeastern Haiti with winds of 85 mph (140 km/h) before entering the Atlantic Ocean. Once in the Atlantic, the storm further intensified to attain peak winds of 105 mph (165 km/h) on November 13 as it accelerated eastward. The system rapidly transitioned into an extratropical cyclone the following day before being absorbed by a frontal system northeast of the Lesser Antilles.
In Jamaica, torrential rains from the storm wrought widespread damage, leaving 30 people dead and $7 million in damage behind. Nearby Haiti suffered more severe losses from the storm, with 166 people confirmed to have died and hundreds other presumed dead. Widespread flooding and landslides destroyed entire villages and ruined transportation.
Partagás, José Fernández and Diaz, H. (1999). A Reconstruction of Historical Tropical Cyclone Frequency in the Atlantic from Documentary and other Historical Sources Part VI: 1909-1910. Climate Diagnostics Center.
Ellis, Michael J. (1988). The Hurricane Almanac. Corpus Christi: Hurricane Publications, Inc.. ISBN978-0-9618707-1-3.