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Hurricane Betsy was the first hurricane to cause more than $1 billion in damage

Friday, September 10th 2021, 5:03 am - On this day in weather history, Hurricane Betsy reached peak intensity.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by Chris Mei from The Weather Network, featuring stories about people, communities and events and how weather impacted them.


On August 27, 1965, Hurricane Betsy formed in the Atlantic Ocean. The storm was erratic and people were not prepared. So when the storm hit, it caused over $1 billion in damage, the first hurricane to do so.

Betsy started on Aug. 23 as a disturbance near Cape Verde. On Aug. 27, A United States Navy plane spotted the tropical wave and classified it as moderate intensity.

Over the next few days, the hurricane continued to intensify. On Aug. 31, Betsy stalled and didn't progress in intensification or speed.

On Sep. 2, Betsy picked up speed and quickly turned into a Category 3 hurricane. On Sep. 4, the hurricane reached its first peak as a Category 4 storm, with winds reaching 220 km/h.

Hurricane Betsy "Monochrome satellite image of a tropical cyclone. The tropical cyclone, located at bottom-center, is round and has a distinct eye. Due to the angle of the camera, the curvature of the Earth is clearly visible." Courtesy of Wikipedia

On Sep. 5, a high-pressure ridge caused Betsy to make a clockwise loop and head towards Florida and The Bahamas. The hurricane continued to lose and gain strength. On Sep. 8, Betsy made landfall over Florida.

On Sep. 9, Betsy strengthened into a Category 4 storm. The next day, the hurricane made landfall over Louisiana. Betsy quickly lost strength and finally dissipated on Sep. 13.

The Bahamas, Florida, and Louisiana received the most severe damage. All three areas received Category 3 level winds. Because the hurricane caused so much financial damage, the storm is nicknamed "Billion Dollar Betsy."

Betsy tore through The Bahamas, knocking down power lines and trees. The heavy rain, strong winds, and flooding also destroyed homes.

Key West "Street flooding in Key West." Courtesy of Florida Keys Public Libraries/Wikipedia/CC BY 2.0

In Florida, Betsy caused extreme storm surge, causing extensive damage along the coast. High winds caused excess water to shift into the Florida Keys. The storm surge reached levels of 2.3 m in Tavernier.

Betsy flooded large areas of Louisiana, causing residents from 164,000 homes to evacuate. It took 10 days for water levels to retreat and locals to return home.

In total, 81 people died as a result of Betsy. The storm caused $1.42 billion (1965 USD) worth of damage.

To learn more about Hurricane Betsy, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

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