Back to Back Tropical Systems Hit Delmarva 50 Years Ago - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Written by Jeff Porter

Back to Back Tropical Systems Hit Delmarva 50 Years Ago

Visible imagery of Hurricane Emily, July 20, 2005. An overhead shot looking east to the Florida peninsula of Emily making landfall in Mexico. (Photo: NOAA) Visible imagery of Hurricane Emily, July 20, 2005. An overhead shot looking east to the Florida peninsula of Emily making landfall in Mexico. (Photo: NOAA)
Connie rainfall map. In the western corner of Dorchester County some 10 inches or more fell. (Graphic: NWS, Taunton, Mass.) Connie rainfall map. In the western corner of Dorchester County some 10 inches or more fell. (Graphic: NWS, Taunton, Mass.)
Diane rainfall map. With Diane taking a more inland track, the heaviest rainfall amounts were correspondingly north and west of Delmarva. (Graphic:  National Weather Service, Taunton, Mass.) Diane rainfall map. With Diane taking a more inland track, the heaviest rainfall amounts were correspondingly north and west of Delmarva. (Graphic: National Weather Service, Taunton, Mass.)
Map of Connie & Diane, Aug. 13, 2002. The blue path indicates Diane's track. (Photo: NOAA) Map of Connie & Diane, Aug. 13, 2002. The blue path indicates Diane's track. (Photo: NOAA)

Residents living along the Gulf coast and the Atlantic seaboard were alarmed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, when it recently upped its prediction for the 2005 Hurricane season. 

Forecasters now see a potential for 18 to 21 tropical storms, nine to 11 of which would be hurricanes.  The new forecast is a timely one after seeing more named storms than ever before this early in the season, eight as of this point.  

In May the government agency had predicted above normal activity with 12 to 15 tropical storms and seven to nine hurricanes.  The hurricane season is not even half over yet; it runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.  

Tropical activity has mainly steered clear of Delmarva so far this season with flooding rains from Cindy in early July and consecutive days of thunderstorms courtesy of Dennis, being the only chinks in the armor. 

Careful examination of the Atlantic Basin reveals quiet weather as well, with only Tropical Storm Harvey making any waves.  These are not reasons to let down our guard though, as just 50 years ago two named storms, Connie and Diane, steamrolled through the Peninsula.  They came within one week of each other, dumping heavy rains and buffeting the area with tropical storm force winds. 

Connie came on the scene as a hurricane August 3, 1955 and matured to a category 3 storm before making landfall on the Carolina coast.  Once over land, Connie weakened to a tropical storm and trekked right up the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.  

This exact track can be devastating to Delmarva and with Connie it meant tremendous amounts of rain.  Baltimore recorded a storm total of 10.69 inches with a 24-hour record of 7.82 inches.  This record still holds today.  The rain fell so fast and in such a short period of time that parts of the inner harbor were completely flooded. 

Denton, Md. received 9.99 inches during the week of Connie with 3.53 inches on Aug. 12 and 3.56 inches on Aug. 13.  These rainfall amounts were good enough to induce flooding on the Choptank River in Denton and knock out phone lines in a lot of Caroline County.  The impressive rainfall did not stop there (see Connie rainfall map). In the western corner of Dorchester County some 10 inches or more fell.

Salisbury, Md. recorded more than 5 inches on the 12th and Dover, Del. had 3.82 inches.  Our nation's capitol tallied 5.44 inches on the 12th and a storm total of more than 8 inches.   

As a weakening Connie progressed northward, so did the intense rains and flooding.  Philly saw 3.29 inches on the 12th and 2.15 inches on the 13th.  New York City got soaked to the tune of 3.62 inches on the 12th and 2.70 inches the following day.  On a sad note, the pleasure schooner, Levin J. Marvel, fell victim to the storm as it sunk in the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, Md.  While 13 people were safely rescued, 14 perished. 

As the final curtain calls were shouted for Connie, Diane was right on her heels spinning to hurricane strength on Aug. 11.  The flood soaked and battered Carolina coast would play the chief target once again as Diane made landfall there on Aug. 17.  Diane took a more inland road than Connie, spreading into central Virginia, then north to near Harrisburg, Pa. and then eastward to Philly and eventually Long Island (see maps of Connie and Diane. The blue path indicates Diane's track).

Even though this storm track was substantially different, a lot of the same areas that suffered with Connie were now under the gun with Diane.  Widespread severe flooding took place from North Carolina to Massacusetts.   Dover, Del. and Salisbury, Md. recorded more than 2 inches from the storm.  Philly saw nearly 3 inches and Baltimore saw 2.67 inches, leading to a one week rainfall total of 13.87 inches from Aug. 12 to Aug. 18 (see Diane rainfall map). With Diane taking a more inland track, the heaviest rainfall amounts were correspondingly north and west of Delmarva.

Many streets, rivers and basements flooded on the Peninsula.  Overall, the massive flooding led to 184 deaths and $832 million in damage.  Diane is the 13 deadliest Atlantic storm. 

 

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