The Florida Keys Hurricane or Atlantic Gulf Hurricane of 1919 was an intense Atlantic hurricane, killing over 600 people as it moved through the Florida Keys and Texas. The second tropical cyclone of the 1919 hurricane season, it moved through the Greater Antilles and Bahamas before moving through the Florida Keys and central Gulf of Mexico into southern Texas. It is one of the most intense hurricanes on record for Key West.
The storm was first detected near the Lesser Antilles on September 2
. It travelled to the west-northwest and hit the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas, where it reached peak strength as a Category 4 hurricane with a pressure of 927 mbar (27.37 inHg).
The storm's center grazed the Florida Keys on September 9 as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It then entered the Gulf of Mexico and continued its general west-northwest track. The storm made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas on September 14 as a Category 3 hurricane. Although the instruments needed to precisely measure a hurricane's wind speed were not available at the time, it is known that this hurricane produced a 12-foot storm surge in the Corpus Christi area, causing major damage.
The barometric pressure of the hurricane was taken, by a ship near the Dry Tortugas. It recorded a level of 27.37 inches (927 mbar), making this hurricane one of the most intense in U.S. recorded history. It was the second-most intense hurricane to strike Key West in the 20th century, until the Category Five Labor Day hurricane which hit the Florida Keys 16 years later.
At 10 a.m. on September 8, northeast storm warnings were hoisted for the Florida coast between Jupiter and Key West. By 1 p.m., the storm warnings were changed to hurricane warnings. At 2 p.m., northeast storm warnings went up for the Tampa Bay area. On September 9, the hurricane warnings were changed back to northeast storm warnings, which were extended along the west coast of Florida northward from Key West to Tampa. On the 10th at 10:30 p.m., northeast storm warnings were issued from Carrabelle, Florida to New Orleans, Louisiana. On the 11th at 4 p.m., the storm warnings for the northeast Gulf coast were changed to hurricane warnings, and extended westward along the length of the Louisiana coast. At 9 p.m., northwest storm warnings were issued for the northwest Gulf coast from Port Arthur to Velasco, Texas
. At 4 p.m. on the 12th, storm warnings were in effect from Mobile, Alabama to Pensacola, Florida, with hurricane warnings in effect along the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts. On the evening of the 13th, northwest storm warnings were in effect for the entire Texas coast.
A tornado, spawned by the hurricane, struck Goulds, Florida
on September 10, moving inland from Biscayne Bay
. It caused US$25,000 (1919 dollars) in damage. Of the approximately 600-900 people officially reported killed in the storm, roughly 500 of them were aboard ten ships lost at sea. Damage and casualties on the Texas coast were also severe, in part due to false rumors that the storm had turned north into Louisiana
, which warranted taking storm warnings in Corpus Christi down the day before landfall. Though warnings were posted again early the following day, the citizens were ill-prepared when the hurricane made landfall south of the city as a major hurricane; the storm surge was as high as . The death toll in Texas was officially 286, but may have been as high 600.
One of the people forced to evacuate Corpus Christi was Bob Simpson
, who would later become head of the National Hurricane Center
and devise the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.