85th AMS Annual Meeting

Tuesday, 11 January 2005: 2:15 PM
The San Diego hurricane of October 2, 1858
Michael Chenoweth, Independent Scholar, Elkridge, MD; and C. W. Landsea
On October 2, 1858, estimated sustained hurricane force winds produced by a tropical cyclone located a short distance offshore were felt in San Diego, California. Unprecedented damage was done in the city and was described as the severest gale ever felt to that date nor has it been matched or exceeded in severity since. A “Southeaster” and high seas from the diminishing tropical cyclone were also felt in the night of October 2-3 at San Pedro (the port serving Los Angeles), with shipping interests lightly damaged. The hurricane force winds at San Diego are the first and only documented instance of winds of this strength from a tropical cyclone in the recorded history of the state. Available evidence suggests that the hurricane tracked just offshore from San Diego, without the eye coming inland, but close enough to produce damaging winds along the entire coast from San Diego to Long Beach. The re-discovery of this storm is relevant to climate change issues and the insurance/emergency management communities risk assessment of rare and extreme events in the region.

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