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1956 Atlantic hurricane season
First storm formed June 15
Last storm dissipated November 7
Strongest storm Carla - 175 mph (280 km/h), 915 mb (27.02 inHg)
Total depressions 19
Total storms 11
Hurricanes 9
Major hurricanes 8 (Record high)
Total damages $2 billion (1956 USD)
Total fatalities ~2,225

The 1956 Atlantic hurricane season was, at the time, the costliest North Atlantic tropical cyclone season recorded, shattering a record set only in the previous season. The season officially began on June 15, 1956, and ended on November 15, 1956, dates that conventionally the timeframe for tropical cyclone formation. This season had a slightly greater than average amount of total storms, eleven (the average is nine), but the number of hurricanes, nine, and major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale (SSHS)), eight, were both far above the 1851-2010 averages of five and one, respectively. In fact, the great number of major hurricanes tied the record high set in the 1950 season. The season's first storm, Hurricane Anna, caused $100 million (1956 United States Dollar damage and ten deaths across the Leeward Islands as it tracked across the Caribbean Sea in mid-June. Following approximately two months of inactivity (during this timepsan four unnumbered tropical depressions developed), Hurricane Betsy in mid-August posed an extremely serious threat to United States Gulf Coast, but rapidly weakened before its Texas landfall as a Category 1 hurricane, leading to total damages of only $50 million (1956 USD) and one death. However, Hurricane Carla roared ashore one week later near Tampa, Florida as a Category 5 hurricane, completely obliterating costal cities and seriously damaging Florida's economy. Overall, the hurricane was reponsible for $1 billion (1956 USD) in damage and 1,100 fatalities, making it the costliest storm to ever hit the United States at the time (surpassing Hurricane Diane's set in just the previous year) and the deadliest since Hurricane San Felipe in 1928. Fortunately, the next two storms, Hurricanes Dora and Ethel, remained out to sea and caused no known land impact.

Afterwards, in the middle of September, Tropical Storms Flossy and Greta both tracked over Cape Cod, Massachusetts as minimal tropical storms, both causing six deaths. In addition, the storms' impact brought damage bills of $400,000 (1956 USD) and $300,000 (1956 USD), respectively. Next, Hurricane Hattie, a classic mid-September Cape Verde-type hurricane, tracked a long path from Cape Verde to Florida, impacting the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and The Bahamas along the way. Recovery efforts from previous storms, such as Hurricanes Anna and Carla, were hampered by Hattie's violent wrath. Overall, the hurricane caused $700 million (1956 USD) in damage, 900 deaths, and trashed the economy of many Leeward Island countries. After a two-week silence in tropical cyclone activity, Hurricane Inez formed in the Caribbean Sea during early October and tracked northwards to a Category 2 landfall near Sabine Pass, Texas. It was attributed to $10 million (1956 USD) in losses and 200 deaths, most of them from the sinking of a cruise liner. Hurricane Judith, the following storm, had no land impact and stayed out to sea. Finally, Hurricane Kitty became an unusually strong November hurricane, but only caused $13 million (1956 USD) in damages and two deaths by affecting sparsely populated region of The Bahamas. However, it downed a Hurricane Hunter aircraft, making it the second North Atlantic storm to do so, after Hurricane Janet in the previous season. In addition to the eleven named storms, several tropical depressions intentionally left unnumbered also formed throughout the course of the season, but no land impact was reported from any of them.

Collectively, the eleven named storms of the 1956 season caused roughly 2,225 fatalities and $2 billion (1956 USD) in losses, making it, as stated above, the costliest North Atlantic tropical cyclone season of its time. Also, following this season, the names of two storms with devestating impacts - Carla and Hattie - were suspended from usage in the North Atlantic basin until 1966. Eventually, in 1969, both of the names would be permanently retired from the basin's naming lists.


Season summaryEdit

Timeline of tropical activity in the 1956 Atlantic hurricane season Wikipedia:Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale

On June 15, 1956, the 1956 Atlantic hurricane season began. The entire North Atlantic was under the jurisdiction of the Weather Bureau office located in Miami, Florida, with chief meteorologist Gordon Dunn monitoring the basin's activity daily. In addition to issuing tropical cyclone advisories for the North Atlantic Ocean, the Weather Bureau could also deploy Hurricane Hunter aircraft into active storms to collect and gather real-time data on them. The warning center had this authority partially because they had begun a collaborative five-year project with several other weather agencies to obtain and analyze information on a hurricane's structures. However, this proved to be a risky decision, as a Hurricane Hunter aircraft was downed by Hurricane Kitty's strong thunderstorm cells and torrential rain downpours. Following an above-normal amount of observed activity during the season, it ended on November 15, 1956.

The 1956 Atlantic hurricane season produced 11 tropical storms. Nine of them intensified into hurricanes, with eight further strengthening into major hurricanes. Furthermore, six of the major hurricanes reached Category 4 intensity on the SSHS, two ahead of the previous record, four, most recently accomplished in the previous season, and two of the Category 4 hurricanes, Carla and Hattie, further became Category 5 hurricanes, making 1956 the third of seven seasons (and the first since 1933) to produce two or more storms of that intensity. The large amount of observed hurricanes this year was primarily caused by strong La Niña conditions persisting throughout almost every portion of the North Atlantic Ocean. In addition, the Bermuda High was displaced to the north this season by a series of winter low pressure areas into such an extreme position it allowed most of the developing storms track over the Lesser Antilles and the United States, causing most of the impact reported in this season.

The season's first storm, Hurricane Anna, developed on June 15, right at the start of the 1956 hurricane season. At its peak intensity, the storm attained winds of 120 miles per hour (mph), making it the strongest tropical cyclone ever recorded in June (surpassing the record set by the first storm in the 1945 season) until Hurricane Audrey surpassed it in the following season, and the second of just four June major hurricanes. Afterwards, a series of four tropical depressions developed throughout late June to early August. The quiet streak finally ended on August 14 with Hurricane Betsy. One additional storm, Hurricane Carla, formed by the month's end. By the end of August, three major hurricanes had formed, making 1956 the first hurricane season since 1950 to accomplish this feat. Next, the month of September saw seven tropical cyclones form - two unnumbered tropical depressions, Tropical Storms Flossy and Greta, as well as Hurricanes Dora, Ethel, and Hattie. October continued the rapid activity of the season, with two unnumbered tropical depressions as well as Hurricanes Inez, Judith, and Kitty forming during the month's progression. In addition, Hurricane Hattie lasted five days into the month. Finally, November saw a significant decrease in tropical cyclone activity, with only one tropical cyclone, Hurricane Kitty, existing throughout the course of the month. However, Kitty reached its 145 mph peak intensity on November 2, making it the strongest storm recorded in November since the Cuba hurricane of 1932 and the second of five recorded Category 4 November hurricanes.

The season's activity was reflected with an approximate accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) rating of 235, which was far above the 1950-2000 average of 96.1. Broadly speaking, ACE is the measure of a hurricane's intensity multiplied by its total duration. This means that long-lasting storms, especially very strong ones, can have high ACEs, as what happened to storms such as Hurricanes Carla and Hattie during this season. It is only calculated for purely tropical systems whose winds are equal to or greater than 39 mph (63 km/h or 35 knots).


List of stormsEdit

Hurricane AnnaEdit

Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration June 15 – June 24
Intensity 120 mph (195 km/h) (1-min),  953 mbar (hPa)


June Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration June 26 – June 27
Intensity 30 mph (45 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


July Mid-Atlantic Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration July 8 – July 11
Intensity 35 mph (55 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


July Eastern Atlantic Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration July 23 – July 24
Intensity 30 mph (45 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


August Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration August 4 – August 8
Intensity 35 mph (55 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


Hurricane BetsyEdit

Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration August 14 – August 18
Intensity 130 mph (215 km/h) (1-min),  942 mbar (hPa)


Hurricane CarlaEdit

Category 5 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration August 21 – August 31
Intensity 175 mph (280 km/h) (1-min),  915 mbar (hPa)


September Gulf Coast Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 1 – September 2
Intensity 35 mph (55 km/h) (1-min),  1001 mbar (hPa)


Hurricane DoraEdit

Category 3 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 3 – September 8
Intensity 125 mph (200 km/h) (1-min),  951 mbar (hPa)


Hurricane EthelEdit

Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 6 – September 13
Intensity 145 mph (230 km/h) (1-min),  944 mbar (hPa)


September Mid-Atlantic Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 11 – September 14
Intensity 30 mph (45 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


Tropical Storm FlossyEdit

Tropical storm (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 13 – September 15
Intensity 60 mph (95 km/h) (1-min),  996 mbar (hPa)


Tropical Storm GretaEdit

Tropical storm (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 16 – September 18
Intensity 60 mph (95 km/h) (1-min),  996 mbar (hPa)


Hurricane HattieEdit

Category 5 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration September 22 – October 5
Intensity 165 mph (270 km/h) (1-min),  915 mbar (hPa)


October Eastern Atlantic Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration October 2 – October 3
Intensity 35 mph (55 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


Hurricane InezEdit

Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration October 4 – October 11
Intensity 155 mph (250 km/h) (1-min),  925 mbar (hPa)


Hurricane JudithEdit

Category 1 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration October 16 – October 19
Intensity 85 mph (140 km/h) (1-min),  980 mbar (hPa)


Hurricane KittyEdit

Category 4 hurricane (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration October 27 – November 7
Intensity 145 mph (230 km/h) (1-min),  937 mbar (hPa)


October Caribbean Sea Tropical DepressionEdit

Tropical depression (SSHS)
Counterclockwise vortex
Duration October 29 – October 31
Intensity 30 mph (45 km/h) (1-min),  Unknown


Storm namesEdit

See also: List of retired Atlantic hurricane names

The following names were used to identify tropical cyclones that reached tropical storm intensity or greater which formed in the North Atlantic Ocean during 1956. This marked the first (and only) time this particular naming list had been used in the North Atlantic. Consequently, all the names used this year were used for the first time in the Atlantic. After this season, the names Carla and Hattie were temporarily removed from the North Atlantic naming lists for ten years (until 1966) until being retired altogether in 1969. No particular replacement name was selected for either of the two retired names because this naming list would not be used again after the 1956 season. Names that were allocated for the season but ended up being unused are marked with an asterik (*).

  • Anna
  • Betsy
  • Carla
  • Dora
  • Ethel
  • Flossy
  • Greta
  • Hattie
  • Inez
  • Judith
  • Kitty
  • Laura (*)
  • Molly (*)
  • Nona (*)
  • Odette (*)
  • Paula (*)
  • Quendy (*)
  • Rhoda (*)
  • Sadie (*)
  • Terese (*)
  • Ursel (*)
  • Vesta (*)
  • Winny (*)
  • Xina (*)
  • Yola (*)
  • Zenda (*)

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