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1959 Escuminac Hurricane
Category 1 hurricane (SSHS)
Formed June 18, 1959 (1959-06-18)
Dissipated June 20, 1959 (1959-06-21)
Highest
winds
80 mph (130 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 974 mbar (hPa; 28.76 inHg)
Fatalities 35 direct
Damage $1.7 million (1959 USD)
$13 million (2009 USD)
Areas
affected
Florida, Atlantic Canada
Part of the
1959 Atlantic hurricane season

The Escuminac Hurricane (or Escuminac Disaster) is the name given for a rare June hurricane which struck Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence on the night of June 19 during the 1959 Atlantic hurricane season, sinking 22 fishing boats from the port of Escuminac, New Brunswick and drowning 35.

Contents

Meteorological history

Storm path

A tropical depression originated in the Gulf of Mexico on June 18. It moved quickly over Florida and reached tropical storm, then hurricane strength on the 19th. The storm became extratropical as it sped northwards, reaching its peak at 80 mph winds after becoming extratropical. Instead of curving out to sea, the storm looped westward into the Gulf of St. Lawrence on the night of the 19th. Here it stalled for about 12 hours before reversing its course and heading back out to sea on the 21st.

The storm was not named, although modern analysis indicates it briefly reached hurricane strength before becoming extratropical.

Impact

Escuminac Disaster Memorial at Escuminac, Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick

The cyclone struck at peak strength late in the evening of June 19. The commercial salmon fishing fleet had sailed from Escuminac, New Brunswick to set their nets at the mouth of Miramichi Bay and drift with them until morning.

The skies turned ominous shortly after supper that evening, and the storm hit with such ferocity that the shallow waters of the western Gulf of St. Lawrence were reportedly running between 50–60 feet in height. Unfortunately, the updated storm warnings had not been passed on from meteorologists to the fishing fleet because the boats had no radios.

Of the 54 boats which sailed from Escuminac, 22 were lost. Fishermen who survived the storm described the sheer terror of the experience to rescuers, Royal Canadian Air Force (from RCAF Station Chatham and RCAF Station Summerside) and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who mounted a search effort over the ensuing days. Relatives of the missing maintained a vigil on the shores of the Gulf as the news story of the search for survivors gripped Canadians across the country throughout the remaining days of June 1959. While Hurricane Hazel killed 81 Canadians in 1954, no hurricane since then has caused as many fatalities in Canada.

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Aftermath

As the hopes of finding survivors dimmed, the small fishing community of Escuminac, New Brunswick (pop. approximately 600) was faced with 19 widows and 76 fatherless children unprovided for. In addition to the loss of life, the loss of property was potentially disastrous to the entire region which saw infrastructure (such as wharves and breakwaters) damaged, vessels destroyed, and fishing gear (such as trawls and lobster traps) lost or damaged beyond repair.

A relief fund was established, and contributions came in from across Canada. Even the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia, itself the victim of mining disasters in 1956 and 1958, sent 2 tons of food aid.

Both Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who were on a Royal Tour in another part of Canada at the time, expressed their sympathies and are reportedly the source of a large anonymous donation which was made to the relief fund in the days following the event.

Today, the "Escuminac Disaster Monument" sits as a memorial on the shores of Escuminac Harbour, not far from the very wharf that the fleet sailed from. The monument carries the names of the 35 victims and this inscription:

"In honour of the fishermen who lost their lives in the Escuminac disaster, June 20, 1959....Pour honorer la memoire des pecheurs qui ont perdu la vie dans la desastre Escuminac Le 20 juin, 1959."

See also

External links

Tropical cyclones of the 1959 Atlantic hurricane season
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
TD TS 1 2 3 4 5

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