Hurricane Agnes

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Hurricane Agnes approaching Florida

Hurricane Agnes was a hurricane that occurred during the 1972 Atlantic hurricane season. The large disturbance was first detected over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico on June 14. The system drifted eastward and became a tropical depression later that day and a tropical storm over the northwestern Caribbean on the 16th. Agnes turned northward on June 17 and became a hurricane over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico the next day. A continued northward motion brought Agnes to the Florida Panhandle coast on June 19 as a Category 1 hurricane. Agnes turned northeastward after landfall and weakened to a depression over Georgia. However, it regained tropical storm strength over eastern North Carolina on June 21 and moved into the Atlantic later that day. A northwestward turn followed, and a just-under-hurricane-strength Agnes made a final landfall on June 22 near New York, New York. The storm merged with a non-tropical low on June 23, with the combined system affecting the northeastern United States until June 25.

Agnes was barely a hurricane at landfall in Florida, and the effects of winds and storm surges were relatively minor. The major impact was over the northeastern United States, where Agnes combined with the non-tropical low to produce widespread rains of 6 to 12 inches with local amounts of 14 to 19 inches. These rains produced widespread severe flooding from Virginia northward to New York, with other flooding occurring over the western portions of the Carolinas.

The worst flooding was along the Genesee River, the Canisteo River, and the Chemung Rivers in southwestern and southcentral New York. The latter two flowed into an already swollen Susquehanna River due to winter snow run off and flooding continued all the way down this river. The worst damage occurred in Elmira, New York and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, but many other communities along the rivers suffered great losses. The Delaware River basin and the Potomac basins also had some flooding. So much fresh water was flushed into Chesapeake Bay that its seafood industry was badly damaged for several years.

Rainfall in the Piedmont region of Virginia also caused extensive flooding in the James River basin. Areas along the James west of Richmond and east of the Blue Ridge received massive amounts of rainfall that exceeded the rains of Hurricane Camille three years prior. The river experienced five-hundred year flooding levels, inundating downtown Richmond and causing millions of dollars in damages.

Agnes caused 122 deaths in the United States. Nine of these were in Florida (mainly from severe thunderstorms) while the remainder were associated with the flooding. The storm was responsible for $3.1 billion in damage (in 1972 US dollars) in the United States, the vast majority of which came from the flooding. Of this, over $2 billion was in Pennsylvania, and $3/4 billion in New York. Agnes also affected western Cuba, where seven additional deaths occurred. After adjustment for inflation, Agnes is the sixth costliest storm in United States history with a total of $8,602,500,000 in 2000 dollars.

Modified after the National Hurricane Center web site (http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/HAW2/english/history.shtml#agnes). This US government site is in the public domain.

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