The Extraordinarily Destructive 1780 Hurricane Season
1780 is less about stories of death and survival and more about mother nature hating on humans. This is one of the most active, and destructive, hurricane seasons on record. Between the months of June and October, no less than five hurricanes made landfall throughout the United States and Caribbean islands.
June 13, 1780: St. Lucia Hurricane
On June 13, a hurricane swept over through the Caribbean, striking St. Lucia, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The storm caused “deaths and losses” in Puerto Rico, killing roughly 4,000 to 5,000 people, and an unknown number at St. Lucia and the Dominican Republic.
August 24, 1780: New Orleans Hurricane
In late August, a massive hurricane rolled over New Orleans, Louisiana. Boasting wind gusts estimated between 160 and 180 miles per hour, New Orleans resident Count de Lafrenière recorded that the storm destroyed nearly every building on Grand Isle, La., damaged the Crescent City, ruined crops, induced flooding, and spun off tornadoes. The storm killed at least twenty-five people.
October 1-3: Savanna-la-Mar Hurricane
This hurricane started off by sinking a British transport ship, the Monarch, killing several hundred Spanish prisoners and the ship’s crew, on its way to Jamaica. On October 3rd, the storm crashed into the Jamaican port Savanna-la-Mar, utterly destroying the city. Numerous witnesses gathered near the coast to watch the destruction, and they had a close-up view of the twenty-foot storm surge that swept in unexpectedly, engulfing the onlookers, docked ships, and many of the town’s buildings. In the nearby village Lucea, 400 people perished, with 360 more in the town of Montego Bay. The hurricane went on to ravage Cuba and the Bahamas, before heading out to sea. Estimates place the storm’s death toll around 1,100.
October 10, 1780: The San Calixto Hurricane
The storms of 1780 seemed to enjoy teaching humanity a lesson in humility, but none more so than the San Calixto Hurricane. Scholars suspect that its winds exceeded 200 mph as it passed over Barbados, Martinique, and St. Lucia, where it flattened nearly every building, and killed at least 19,500 people. The storm lashed at Puerto Rico’s coastlines, crossed over the eastern regions of the Dominican Republic, before it finally turned to the northeast, and into the middle of the Atlantic. Throughout the Lesser Antilles Islands, the total death toll is estimated at 27,500; the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record.
October 18-21: Solano’s Hurricane
Apparently, 1780 hurricanes hated European Naval fleets. Rough waves and storm surge decimated the British fleet at St. Lucia. Forty French ships capsized at Martinique during the San Calixto Hurricane. This hurricane, however, was equal opportunity and sought out a Spanish war fleet enroute to attack Pensacola. Commanded by José Solano, the fleet of sixty-four vessels was caught by a fast-moving storm from behind. The hurricane crossed over western Cuba, captured Solano’s fleet, and proceeded northward toward the Florida panhandle. Solano’s ships had 4,000 men aboard, but only 2,000 survived.