HURRICANE GLORIA - September 27, 1985.

WINDS: 85-mph (moving at 40-mph).
PRESSURE: 28.37 inches/961-mb.
STORM - SURGE: 4 - 7 feet above Mean Tide.

Hurricane Gloria makes landfall on Long Island, New York with sustained winds of 85-mph (gusts to 115-mph) in September 1985. (Photo courtesy NOAA).

 

One of the most intensely reported events of the 1980's, Hurricane Gloria hit Long Island, New York and southern Connecticut as a moderate hurricane in September 1985. At the time of landfall on Long Island - Gloria had sustained winds of around 85-mph. However, Gloria was moving forward at 40-mph when it struck land. This combination of sustained winds and rapid forward motion - produced peak winds of at least 111-mph across a narrow area of eastern Long Island. Thus, Gloria is considered a major hurricane on Long Island. In Connecticut, Gloria is considered a category 2 hurricane.

Gloria was considerably more damaging to Long Island and Connecticut than Hurricane Belle of 1976. Although Gloria's strength had slowly lessened as it approached the United States mainland - isolated areas on Long Island reported some moderate coastal flooding and structural damage. In Connecticut, damage was confined to falling trees - little structural damage or storm surge flooding was reported. Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts escaped the storm almost unscathed. Unfortunately, Gloria proved deadly, six persons were killed by falling trees, including a six year old girl in Connecticut.

Gloria was a classic Cape Verde hurricane, traveling hundreds of miles across the open Atlantic in late September 1985. By September 22, Gloria had reached hurricane strength as it neared the Leeward Islands. Slowly curving toward the northwest, the storm moved just to the east of the Bahamas while intensifying rapidly. When Air Force hurricane hunters reached the storm late on the 24th, Gloria had a central pressure of 919 mb (27.13 in.), and sustained winds of 150 mph - making Gloria one of the most intense storms ever observed in Atlantic Basin.

As Gloria continued to head toward the United States mainland the storm steadily weakened. As Gloria brushed the North Carolina Outer Banks near midnight on September 27, the winds fell to 105-mph, although the barometric pressure was still extremely low (27.83/942 mb). The Diamond Shoals light tower sixteen-miles off the North Carolina coast recorded sustained winds of 98-mph with a gusts to 120-mph. The cyclone continued to accelerate northward off the United States Atlantic coastline, crossing Long Island, New York about 10 miles east of Kennedy International Airport. Gloria then crossed the Connecticut coast near Bridgeport about 40-minutes later with sustained winds around 80-mph.

The track of Hurricane Gloria (1985) from the far tropical Atlantic to landfall along the coast of the Northeastern United States. Gloria's track was similar to the 1938 and 1944 hurricanes (track NHC).

 

 

METEOROLOGICAL CONDITIONS IN THE UNITED STATES

As Hurricane Gloria crossed Long Island, N.Y. - Air Force hurricane hunter aircraft reported sustained winds of 85-mph. The combination of Gloria's sustained winds (85-mph) and forward motion (35-mph) produced peak winds of at least 111-mph on eastern Long Island. Along the central and eastern Connecticut coastline, peak wind gusts are estimated to have been around 95-mph during Gloria. The strongest winds occurred on eastern Long Island - and this was the only location that experienced some spotty structural damage. Post-storm analyses of building damage near Westhampton Beach and Fire Island support estimates of peak winds over 110-mph. As is common when tropical cyclones strike the North Atlantic states - the northeast track across Long Island spared New York City hurricane conditions and any significant effects.

There were very few wind reports near the area of maximum winds - due to the complete evacuation of Coast Guard personnel from stations on Long Island. The strongest official wind gust recorded on Long Island was only 84-mph at Islip. In Connecticut, the National Weather Service at Sikorsky Airport in Stratford, recorded sustained winds of 74-mph with a gust to 92-mph. There were several unofficial wind reports- including measurements of a 97-mph gust at Centerreach, Long Island, and 120-mph gusts at Fire Island Light (NWS).

The National Weather Service at Kennedy International Airport recorded a minimum pressure of 28.57 inches, while Sikorsky Airport in Bridgeport, Connecticut, recorded a low pressure of 28.47 inches (964 mb). This was the lowest barometric pressure recorded in Connecticut and New York since Donna in 1960 - a period of 25 years. A barometric pressure of 28.37 inches (961 mb) was measured by aircraft as Gloria crossed the U.S mainland near Jones Beach, NY.

Fortunately for thousands of people - Hurricane Gloria arrived at low tide - thus a storm surge of only 4 to 7-feet was reported. A few locations on eastern Long Island reported modest storm surge damage. Near Babylon, Long Island, tides were measured at 6-feet above mean tide, with flood waters 4-feet deep in living areas. Willets Point recorded tides 4.3-feet above normal (NWS). Many beach communities on eastern Long Island reported modest beach erosion with several piers and docks swept away. In Connecticut, the eastern coastal areas experienced the greatest tidal surges, which were rather small, with gages in Groton and Old Lyme recording tides 4 to 5-feet above normal. In New Haven, a storm surge of 5.5-feet was enough to damage and destroy several piers and seawalls.

(Fire Island, New York)

Roof of homes ripped off in 115-mph gusts during Hurricane Gloria on Long Island in September 1985 (Photo courtesy World Wide).

 

THE IMPACT

The worst damage during Hurricane Gloria occurred across central and eastern Long Island. This region was located in the area of maximum winds just to the east of Gloria's eye. Most of the spotty structural damage occurred across eastern Long Island, with thousands of trees blown into buildings and across shoreline roads, roofs ripped off, and modest storm surge flooding. The 100-mph + gusts ripped the roof off the Islip Police Station, as well as, the large hangers at Long Island- MacArthur Airport. There was significant building damage in the Westhampton Beach area - with many structures flattened. A commercial truck was blown off the Tappan Zee bridge at the height of the hurricane, falling some 90-feet into the Hudson River below- incredibly, the driver was not killed. One person was reported to have been killed during Hurricane Gloria on Long Island from falling tree limbs.

Hurricane Gloria's arrival at low tide produced a rather minimal storm surge across Long Island. The most serious storm surge was experienced along the Great South Bay. Tides of 7-feet above normal flooded homes from Hempstead to the Hamptons. In Westhampton, the fabled Dune Road was covered with ocean water in several places at the height of the hurricane. Many walkways and boardwalks were damaged and destroyed along the ocean side of Fire Island.

Roof torn off hangers of MacArthur Airport on central Long Island after Hurricane Gloria in 1985. (Photo LIP).

 

Hurricane Gloria produced weak category 2 hurricane conditions across southern and southeastern Connecticut. Gloria continued to lose intensity as it passed over Long Island. Peak wind gusts along the central and eastern Connecticut coast were likely near 95-mph as the tropical cyclone swept over the region. The metropolitan New Haven area was hit with wind gusts of 90-mph and heavy rain. There were only a few reports of minimal structural damage in southern Connecticut during Gloria. Tree damage in Connecticut was modestly heavy within 10 to 20-miles of the coast, from around Bridgeport to the Lymes. The entire causeway in the Fenwick section of Old Saybrook was under water at the height of the hurricane, while several homes on the tiny islands off the Connecticut coast were swept away during the cyclone. Several fishing piers near New Haven were also destroyed. Two persons were reported to have been killed by falling trees limbs in southern Connecticut - tragically one one these was a six year old girl.

Hurricane Gloria produced minimal damage along the Maryland and New Jersey coasts. In Ocean City, Maryland, the storm surge poured 2-3 feet of water into the streets, and swept away part of the boardwalk. In New Jersey, the feared repeat of storm surge flooding of the 1944 hurricane in Atlantic City never occurred - tides of only 4-feet above normal flooded some roads and buckled walkways. Rhode Island and Massachusetts reported little damage and experienced winds of less than hurricane force. In Massachusetts, a wind gust of 72-mph was recorded at Chatham WSMO, while winds hit 52-mph in downtown Providence, Rhode Island. As the weakening center of Gloria passed over central Massachusetts, Worcester reported a minimum pressure of 28.97 in.(981 mb).One death was reported in Rhode Island form falling tree limbs.

Infrared image of Hurricane Gloria crossing the Connecticut coast on September 27, 1985. Sustained winds were about 80-mph at this time. (Photo NOAA).

 

Gloria was responsible for a total of eight deaths in the United States. Two persons were killed in Connecticut, two were killed in Rhode Island, and one each in New York and New Hampshire. It is estimated that 1 hour after the storm 2.2 million people were without electricity in the Northeastern United States (Tavett). Hurricane Gloria produced one of the largest single power losses in the United States up to that time: 683,000 lost power in New York, 669,000 in Connecticut, 237,000 in New Jersey, 174,000 in Rhode Island, 124,000 in Maryland, 84,000 in Massachusetts, and 56,000 in Virginia. More than 200,000 persons evacuated the low lying areas on Long Island, and in New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and southeastern Massachusetts. Total damage is estimated at $900-million in 1986.

 

 

BACK

 © Michael A. Grammatico 05/02

 

 

 

1 1