Hurricane Agnes: Wikis


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Hurricane Agnes
Category 1 hurricane (SSHS)

Hurricane Agnes approaching Florida
Formed June 14, 1972 (1972-06-14)
Dissipated June 25, 1972 (1972-06-26)
85 mph (140 km/h) (1-minute sustained)
Lowest pressure 977 mbar (hPa; 28.85 inHg)
Fatalities 130 direct
Damage $3 billion (1972 USD)
$15.7 billion (2009 USD)
Yucatán Peninsula, western Cuba, Florida Panhandle, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York
Part of the
1972 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Agnes was the first tropical storm and first hurricane of the 1972 Atlantic hurricane season. A rare June hurricane, it made landfall on the Florida Panhandle before moving northeastward and ravaging the Mid-Atlantic region as a tropical storm. The worst damage occurred along a swath from central Maryland through central Pennsylvania to the southern Finger Lakes region of New York, as illustrated by the rainfall map below. Agnes brought heavy rainfall along its path, killing 129 and causing $11.6 billion (2005 US dollars) in damage, with railroad damage so extensive it contributed to the creation of Conrail. At the time, it was the most damaging hurricane ever recorded, surpassing Hurricane Betsy, and it would not be surpassed until Hurricane Frederic in 1979. Agnes was also the only Category 1 hurricane to be retired at the time, and one of 5 today (other Category ones were Cesar, Klaus, Noel, and Stan).


Meteorological history

Storm path

The large disturbance was first detected over the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico on June 14. The system drifted eastward and became a tropical depression later that day and a tropical storm over the northwestern Caribbean on the 16th. Agnes turned northward on June 17 and became a hurricane over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico the next day. A continued northward motion brought Agnes to the Florida Panhandle coast on June 19 as a Category 1 hurricane.

Agnes turned northeastward after landfall and weakened to a depression over Georgia. However, it regained tropical storm strength over eastern North Carolina on June 21 and moved into the Atlantic later that day. A northwestward turn followed, and a just-under-hurricane-strength Agnes made a final landfall on June 22 near New York City. The storm merged with a non-tropical low on June 23, with the combined system affecting the northeastern United States until June 25. [1]


Agnes Rainfall Across the East

Agnes was barely a hurricane at landfall in Florida, and the effects of winds and storm surges were relatively minor. The major impact was over the Mid-Atlantic region, where Agnes combined with a non-tropical low to produce widespread rains of 6 to 12 inches (300 mm) with local amounts up to 19 inches (480 mm) in western Schuylkill County in Pennsylvania [2]. These rains produced widespread severe flooding from Virginia northward to New York, with other flooding occurring over the western portions of the Carolinas. (from Hurricane Agnes Rainfall and Floods, June-July 1972)

Death Tolls by Area
Area Deaths
Canada 2
Cuba 9
Florida 9
North Carolina 2
Virginia 13
Delaware 1
Maryland 19
New Jersey 1
New York 24
Pennsylvania 50
Total 130

Some of the worst flooding was along the Genesee River, the Canisteo River, and the Chemung River in southwestern and south central New York. The latter two flow into the Susquehanna River, and most of the severe flooding took place throughout the Chesapeake/Susquehanna watershed. Flooding set a flood record at, and threatened to overtop, the Conowingo Dam near the mouth of the Susquehanna in Maryland. The worst urban damage occurred in Elmira, New York and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, but many other communities along the rivers suffered great losses. Dick Baumbach, a reporter for The Elmira Star Gazette, covered the hurricane and almost lost his life while he was attempting to take a photograph of the very rapidly rising flood waters in Wellsburg, New York. He went on to be awarded the Associated Press Meritorious Service Award for his coverage of the hurricane. The Delaware River and Potomac River basins also had some flooding. So much fresh water was flushed into Chesapeake Bay that its seafood industry was badly damaged for several years; freshwater intolerant species such as jellyfish became largely non-existent in the upper and mid bay. [3]

Another reporter gave this account of the hurricane's damage in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "There is a whole block of homes that is burning adjacent to the Governor's Mansion. They're in about six feet of water, and fireman cannot reach them. They're trying to drag in two hoses, but it's not gonna work; the -- the whole block is gone. The only way to reach these homes is by rowboat." -Sally Frtiz

Rainfall in the Piedmont regions of Maryland and Virginia caused extensive flooding in the Patapsco, Potomac and James River basins. Areas along the James west of Richmond and east of the Blue Ridge Mountains received massive amounts of rainfall that exceeded the rains of Hurricane Camille three years prior. The river experienced five-hundred year flooding levels, inundating downtown Richmond and causing millions of dollars in damages. [4] The swollen Patapsco River swept away houses and ten miles (16 km) of train tracks, blocking at one point every transportation route southward out of Baltimore into neighboring Anne Arundel County, Maryland toward Annapolis. [5] Maryland had the highest per capita death toll of all five states declared disaster areas by President Nixon (Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York). Extensive flooding was recorded even as far inland as Pittsburgh and throughout the Ohio River Valley, where rivers crested 11 feet (3.4 m) above flood stage on June 24 after nearly a foot of rain fell in parts of Western Pennsylvania over the course of three days.[6]

Agnes caused 122 deaths in the United States. Nine of these were in Florida (mainly from severe thunderstorms) while the remainder were associated with the flooding. The storm was responsible for $2.1 billion in damage (1972 US dollars) in the United States, the vast majority of which came from the flooding [7]. Of this, over $2 billion was in Pennsylvania, and $700 million in New York.[8] Agnes also affected western Cuba, where seven additional deaths occurred. After adjustment for inflation, Agnes is the seventh costliest storm in United States history with a total of $11.6 billion (2005 US dollars). [9]

In Canada, Hurricane Agnes gave heavy rains and winds over southern Ontario and southern Quebec, causing numerous floodings around lake Erie and Lake Ontario. In the town of Maniwaki, Quebec, the storm toppled a mobile home, killing two people[10].


Remnants of Agnes over northeastern United States

Agnes had a devastating impact on the already-bankrupt railroads in the northeastern United States, as lines were washed out and shipments were delayed. The resulting cost of repairing the damage was one of the factors leading to the creation of the federally financed Conrail railroad system.

The severe floods near Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania were the catalyst for the construction of the Tioga Reservoir in 1973.


Because of extensive damage and severe death tolls, the name Agnes was retired following this storm, and will never again be used for another Atlantic hurricane. [11] Because the tropical cyclone naming lists were changed in 1979, there was no replacement name selected.

See also



J. F. Bailey, J. L. Patterson, and J. L. H. Paulhus. Geological Survey Professional Paper 924. Hurricane Agnes Rainfall and Floods, June-July 1972. United States Government Printing Office: Washington D.C., 1975.

External links

Tropical cyclones of the 1972 Atlantic hurricane season
Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale
TD TS 1 2 3 4 5

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