Fifty-one years ago, on September 10, 1964, Hurricane Dora made landfall near St. Augustine. This was the first hurricane landfall in St. Augustine during the era of modern record keeping. During its life, Dora killed 5 people and caused $250 million in damage.
It was the second in a quartet of hurricanes to affect Florida in that year and caused considerable damage to northeast Florida. Dora followed Cleo’s rampage up Florida’s east coast and was followed by Hilda, which inundated northern Florida, and Isabell, that struck southwest Florida.
Dora was a Cape Verde storm, forming as a tropical depression near those islands west of Africa in late August. It didn’t intensify until it had traveled across the Main Development Region, becoming a Tropical Storm on September 1st.
It turned northwestward at that time and continued to ramp up over the next five days, reaching peak sustained wind values of 130 mph (215 km/hr). The hurricane failed to be picked up by a mid-latitude trough that hurricane forecasters had expected to cause it to recurve out to sea.
Instead Dora began a more westerly course which aimed it at northeast Florida. On September 9th, the hurricane slowed and began several loops as it was tracked by the Weather Bureau radar in Daytona Beach, finally making landfall near St. Augustine in the early morning hours of September 10th with winds estimated around 115 mph (185 km/hr).
Dora continued its slightly north of west track slowly across the Florida panhandle as it weakened to a tropical storm, dumping over 20″ of rain on the Big Bend area. It then was caught up in another mid-latitude trough which carried it quickly to the northeast as a frontal low, bringing substantial rains to Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.
The National Hurricane Research Laboratory flew ten missions into Dora from the time it was northeast of the Lesser Antilles until its final approach to the First Coast. These flights included participation by Colorado State University collaborators Herb Riehl and Russ Elsberry and Linton R. Corruccini from NCAR.
Photo credits: © 2015 Historic City News facebook archive photograph NOAA/Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory Hurricane Research Division