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The 1806 Great Coastal hurricane was a severe and damaging storm along the East Coast of the United States which produced upwards of 36 in (91 cm) of rainfall in parts of Massachusetts. First observed east of the Lesser Antilles on 17 August, the hurricane arrived at the Bahamas by 19 August. The disturbance continued to drift northward and made landfall at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina on 22 August. The storm soon moved out to sea as a Category 2-equivalent hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, persisting off of New England before dissipating south of Nova Scotia on 25 August as a markedly weaker storm. Several French and British military ships were damaged out at sea. In the Carolinas, salt, sugar, rice, and lumber industries suffered considerably, and several individuals were killed. Wharves and vessels endured moderate damage, with many ships wrecked on North Carolinan barrier islands. A majority of the deaths caused by the hurricane occurred aboard the Rose-in-Bloom offshore of Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey, with 21 of the ship's 48 passengers killed and $171,000 (1806 USD) in damage to its cargo.[nb 1] Upon arriving in New England, reports indicated extreme rainfall, though no deaths were reported; in all, the hurricane killed more than 24 individuals along the entirety of its track.[nb 2]

1806 Great Coastal hurricane
Category 2 hurricane (SSHWS/NWS)
Rose-in-Bloom overturns during 1806 hurricane.png
Rose-in-Bloom overturning during the hurricane
Formed17 August 1806 (17 August 1806)
Dissipated25 August 1806 (25 August 1806)
Highest winds1-minute sustained: 110 mph (175 km/h)
Fatalitiesat least 24 total
Damage$171,000 (1806 USD)
Areas affectedThe Bahamas, Southeastern United States, Virginia, New England
Part of the 1806 Atlantic hurricane season


Meteorological historyEdit

The Great Coastal hurricane of 1806 was first noted far east of the Lesser Antilles on 17 August.[1] Weather historian David M. Ludlum followed the disturbance's track to the Bahamas by 19 August; intense winds persisted until 21 August, however, approximately 150 mi (240 km) east of the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. Steering currents brought the storm northward, and it approached Charleston, South Carolina on 22 August, where a generally easterly flow preceded the storm indicated its passage far east of the city.[2] The hurricane made landfall at the mouth of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina later that day,[3] though the earliest impacts from the storm started several days earlier, with gusts initially toward the northeast but later curving southwestward. Reports of similar wind shifts throughout the region suggested that the gale persisted, stationary, for several hours. It eventually moved back out to sea while south of Norfolk, Virginia,[4] departing the region on 24 August.[2] The hurricane maintained 1-minute maximum sustained winds of 110 mph (175 km/h) while offshore,[5] equivalent to a Category 2 system on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. While offshore New England, the gale featured a swath of winds 90 mi (150 km) wide,[6] and was last observed just south of Nova Scotia on 25 August slightly weaker, with sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h).[5]


The hurricane damaged several vessels while still drifting at sea, dispersing and damaging Jérôme Bonaparte's fleet and dismasting the 74-gun French ship of the line Impétueux, which later landed near Cape Henry.[4]

In Charleston, South Carolina, the hurricane washed aground several ships and uprooted numerous trees, though damage to the city harbor was minimal. The lighthouse on North Island flanking Winyah Bay collapsed under high winds, and in Georgetown proper, the hurricane was considered to be the worst since the 1804 Antigua–Charleston hurricane, despite its storm surge being of a lesser size. A cotton field covering 94 acres was ruined nearby.[4] At Smithville, North Carolina, numerous ships experienced damage, while considerable destruction to structures was observed, with many wharves wrecked. Meanwhile, at Wilmington, the hurricane inflicted widespread damage, with many wharves severely damaged, and significant losses sustained by salt, sugar, rice, and lumber industries. The gable sections of three masonry houses were destroyed by wind or water, and wooden houses suffered especially badly, with many obliterated and those under construction flattened. One individual died after a wall collapsed and several slaves were killed, one by drowning, at local plantations.[7] At Bald Head Island, the United States Revenue Cutter Service vessel Governor Williams was stripped of its foremast and subsequently ran ashore before being repaired and continuing on its journey. A second boat owned by the agency, the Diligence, was tethered at port in Wilmington and endured no damage; similarly, little impact occurred at New Bern.[8] Throughout the storm, several vessels and supplies of stranded sailors were driven aground along the North Carolinan coast. On the Bogue Banks, the remains of the Adolphus and Atlantic were discovered, and at the Core Banks, a dead body was washed ashore, partially eaten by fish.[9]

Moderate damage occurred upon the hurricane's arrival in Norfolk, Virginia. Winds toppled a number of newly built structures and chimneys, uprooted trees and fences, and washed two watercraft aground.[10] After the storm, alterations to the shoreline around the Chesapeake Bay permitted the full establishment of a town at Willoughby Spit.[11] The Rose-in-Bloom was caught in the hurricane while offshore of Barnegat Inlet, New Jersey,[12] en route to New York City from Charleston,[11] but was struck by a large wave which overturned the ship, resulting in the deaths of 21 of its 48 passengers and the loss of $171,000 of its $180,000 (1806 USD) cargo. The vessel only barely stayed afloat, with 30 bales of cotton preventing it from sinking entirely;[12] survivors were ferried to New York by the British brig Swift, which had then been traveling toward St. John's, Newfoundland.[11] The hurricane produced strong gusts within the vicinity of New York City, and at Belleville, New Jersey, several peach trees were defoliated and uprooted. Cape Cod, Massachusetts was struck by heavy rain and observed minor damage to its port. At Edgartown, meanwhile, an individual witnessed torrential rainfall, recording that a barrel was filled with 30 in (76 cm) of water, and estimating total rainfall reached 36 in (91 cm) there, where the storm devastated local crops and beached five cargo ships. At Brewster, meanwhile, severe damage to crops and salterns was noted, and 18 in (46 cm) of rainfall was recorded.[10] Reports in Boston, however, indicate more modest rainfall amounts, with a precipitation rate of 0.40 in (1.0 cm) per hour noted.[13]

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ All damage figures in the article are in 1806 United States dollars (USD) unless otherwise stated.
  2. ^ Deaths are totaled as follows: 21 were killed aboard the Rose-in-Bloom, one died in a wall collapse at Wilmington, North Carolina, one drowned at a nearby plantation, and one died out at sea, off of the Core Banks. Although several slaves were killed, no exact number is known or has been estimated.


  1. ^ Chenoweth 2006, p. 222
  2. ^ a b Ludlum 1963, p. 57
  3. ^ Hairr 2008, p. 32
  4. ^ a b c Ludlum 1963, p. 56
  5. ^ a b Boose; et al. "Hurricane Track Data". Harvard University. Harvard Forest. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  6. ^ Boose 2001, p. 40
  7. ^ Hairr 2008, p. 33
  8. ^ Hairr 2008, p. 34
  9. ^ Hairr 2008, p. 36
  10. ^ a b Ludlum 1963, p. 39
  11. ^ a b c Schwartz 2007, p. 54
  12. ^ a b Hairr 2008, p. 35
  13. ^ Ludlum 1963, p. 40