Lesser Known Florida Hurricanes: West Florida (1772)

The Atlantic hurricane season is once again upon us. It’s time for preparation… and a little history.

Some of the most famous storms in the annals of hurricane history made landfall in Florida. The Sunshine State is certainly not alone in suffering from tropical weather; Hugo, Gilbert, Katrina, Mitch, and Sandy immediately come to mind.

We remember the devastation from Andrew, Charley, Donna, Jeanne, Francis and many others, but what about the lesser known hurricanes in Florida history? This series of blog posts takes a look back at lesser known hurricanes and other tidbits concerning tropical weather in Florida history.

Today, we look back at Bernard Romans’ account of the West Florida Hurricane of 1772.

Excerpt from Romans’ “A General Map of the Southern British Colonies in America…” (1776), showing the area effected by the West Florida Hurricane of 1772

Excerpt from Romans’ “A General Map of the Southern British Colonies in America…” (1776), showing the area effected by the West Florida Hurricane of 1772

Between August 30 and September 3, 1772, a powerful hurricane battered West Florida. Bernard Romans—naturalist, cartographer, soldier, and author of A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida (1775)—wrote a vivid account of the storm. At the time the hurricane struck the northern Gulf coast, British Florida stretched from St. Augustine on the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to the Mississippi River near New Orleans. The British administered the colony as two provinces: East and West Florida.

Romans’ notes on the 1772 West Florida Hurricane are believed to be the only published account of the storm. Below is an excerpt from A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida, pages 4-5:

“The fatal hurricane of August 30, 31, September 1, 2, 3, anno 1772, was severely felt in West Florida, it destroyed the woods for about 30 miles from the sea coast in a terrible manner… [I]n Pensacola it did little or no mischief except the breaking down of all the wharfs but one; but farther westward, it was terrible… [A]t Mobile every thing was in confusion, vessels, boats, and goods were drove up in to the streets a great distance…all the vegetables were burned up by the salt water…all the lower floors of the houses were covered with water…”

Romans went on to describe the destruction of plantations near New Orleans on the Mississippi River and the hardships faced by residents of the area.

To learn more, see Bernard Romans, A Concise Natural History of East and West Florida… (University of Florida Press, 1962 [1775]).

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