Hurricane devastates Haiti


080909-N-5642P-156 PORT-AU-PRINCE (Sept. 9, 2008) An aerial photograph taken Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008 of damage in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti caused by Hurricane Ike. The amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) has been diverted from the scheduled Continuing Promise 2008 humanitarian assistance deployment in the western Caribbean to conduct hurricane relief operations in Haiti. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William S. Parker (Released)
On this day in 1963, Hurricane Flora crashes into Haiti, killing thousands of people. This huge storm, which also killed large numbers of people in Cuba and wreaked havoc elsewhere in the Caribbean, was one of the most deadly hurricanes in history.

On September 30, Flora reached hurricane status just east of the Caribbean. It then quickly became a Category 2 hurricane as it slammed into Trinidad and Tobago. There, it triggered several deadly landslides before moving on to the island of Grenada. Flora took a terrible toll on the small island, killing 36 people and seriously injuring another 500.

After moving over Grenada, Flora strengthened briefly to a Category 5 storm with 170-mile-per-hour winds. On October 2, the hurricane, now a Category 4, struck Haiti. The island’s coastal villages were decimated by the winds. Most damaging, though, was a 12-foot storm surge, which overwhelmed virtually all the homes and other buildings near the ocean. It is estimated that 5,000 people died in the disaster. The survivors were faced not only with rebuilding their devastated nation, but with the loss of nearly the entire coffee crop for the season, a huge economic blow.

Flora next moved northwest toward Cuba. It slowed and stalled nearby on October 4, battering the island for nearly three days. As much as 20 inches of rain fell in some places, including Oriente and Camaquey, and a levee at the Canto River broke, causing a deadly flood. At least 1,000 people were thought to have died in Cuba and an estimated 175,000 were left homeless by Flora, though the government, under dictator Fidel Castro, was not forthcoming with detailed information. Cuban farmers also lost virtually their entire sugar and coffee crops for the season to the storm.

On October 9, Flora finally dissipated, leaving behind about 6,000 dead and millions of dollars in damages.

– Staff