Hurricane Hits Haiti – 10/2/1963

History |


On October 2nd of 1963, Hurricane Flora smashed into Haiti. It was the sixth hurricane (and seventh tropical storm) of the 1963 Atlantic hurricane season, and one of the deadliest hurricanes in all of recorded history. 

On September 30th of 1963, Flora attained hurricane status just to the east of the Caribbean, and swiftly became a Category 2 hurricane. The storm struck the southwestern portion of Haiti with fatal force, as a Category 4 hurricane, with sustained winds of 145 miles an hour. Areas affected by hurricane Flora included the Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Florida.

Reports indicate that, altogether, somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 people were killed by Hurricane Flora. In Cuba, roughly 1,000 lives were lost, with about 175,000 people left homeless, and most of the sugar plantations and coffee crops destroyed.

About 5,000 people died in Haiti, where entire communities were buried in mudslides. Other Haitian towns were simply washed away in the wettest storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. In addition to so many fatalities, hurricane Flora also caused about 125 to 180 million dollars (1963 USD) in property damage. What's more, the storm destroyed Haiti's crops, along with many hundred trees. It would take three years to get the crops regrown, and almost every home in southwest Haiti needed to be rebuilt. Many of the people who died when Flora hit Haiti had suffered burns from the strong winds. After the storm, about 3,500 people were confirmed dead. Five months later, several thousand people were still missing, and presumed dead.

Haiti is a country on the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago. It occupies the western part of the island, and the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern part. Haiti has a land area of more than 10,700 square miles, and contains a population of about 10.6 million people, making Haiti the second most populous country in the Caribbean.

Due partly to its proneness to tempestuous weather, and partly because of deforestation, Haiti is the poorest location in the western hemisphere. The climate of Haiti is rife with hurricanes and tropical storms. Haiti actually has two rainy seasons a year – April to June and October to November. The rainfall in Port au Prince (Haiti's capital) measures more than 53 inches a year. Adding to the problem, Haiti is a horseshoe-shaped land mass with a disproportionately long shoreline for its relatively small size. The heavy rains in Haiti have caused much flooding throughout the region.

Droughts and floods are made even worse in Haiti, due to the country's severe deforestation. Haiti's landscape was 60 percent forest as recently as fifty years ago. However, due to a lack of land management, less than one percent of Haiti remains forested today. These days, scientists at Columbia University and at the United Nations Environment Program are working on the Haiti Regeneration Initiative, a plan to restore the damaged ecosystem of Haiti.

After an entire week of running its mad, destructive course, hurricane Flora finally dissipated on October 9th of 1963. 

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