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Yes, There Was Once a March Atlantic Hurricane
Published: March 6, 2018
Hurricanes may be the last thing on your mind this time of year, but there has been an Atlantic hurricane in March, and it nailed some areas of the Caribbean.
(MORE: Hurricane Central)
It's only happened once, according to NOAA's best track database dating to 1842.
On March 6, 1908, a tropical storm formed just over 500 miles northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
This oddball storm tracked south-southwest, intensifying to Category 2 strength as it tracked near the northern Leeward Islands of Saint-Barthélemy and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
"We of the islands in and around the northeastern corner of the Caribbean Sea were surprised to experience weather of so boisterous a character that it reminded us of what sometimes takes place in the regular hurricane season," wrote John T. Quin from St. Croix in the May 1908 journal Monthly Weather Review.
Decades before satellites began their surveillance, reports of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin were pieced together from either reports from ships or land areas already impacted.
Quin noted the rather bizarre shift in winds in St. Croix from the typical east-southeast trade winds and falling barometric pressure, which tipped him off that a cyclone was entering the Caribbean Sea.
The path of this hurricane's center was estimated to have tracked over the Leeward Islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, based on observations of where smaller boats typically on the leeward (west) sides of the islands were either driven ashore or driven out to sea.
"It would seem that the cyclone in question followed a track opposite in every particular to the track usually followed by cyclones originating within the tropics in the hurricane season." - John T. Quin (May 1908)
One sailboat broke from its anchor in St. Eustatius and was found "abandoned and stripped of mast and sails" off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico almost two weeks after the storm, according to Quin's report.
Buildings were damaged in Saint Barthélemy, including a church. Tents housing peasants were damaged in Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, along with heavy damage to the local cotton crop.
Up to 8 inches of rain was reported in St. Kitts.
According to NOAA's Hurricane Research Division, at least 2 percent of Atlantic named storms and hurricanes form outside the conventional June-November hurricane season.
In 2017, Tropical Storm Arlene became only the second April Atlantic tropical storm since satellite coverage of the basin began in the mid-1960s.
Jonathan Erdman is a senior meteorologist at weather.com and has been an incurable weather geek since a tornado narrowly missed his childhood home in Wisconsin at age 7. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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