Hurricane season began on June 1st and more often than not it is a month that doesn’t feature too much tropical storm activity, but back in early June 1966 it was a different story.
On June 4th, the first tropical depression of the young season formed near Nicaragua. The tropical depression moved north into the already warm waters of the Western Caribbean and strengthened rapidly into Hurricane Alma as it made landfall on the western tip of Cuba. Typically, when tropical systems make landfall they weaken, but Alma only got stronger as it continued to make its way to the north towards the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and U.S.
Hurricane Alma became a major hurricane as it neared Key West with max sustained winds of 125 mph, or a category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Alma continued to track north parallel to the west coast of Florida across the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and thankfully weakened some before making landfall in Apalachee Bay, FL. on the Florida Panhandle on June 9th.
When Alma made landfall it had weakened to a strong category 1 storm with max sustained winds of 90 mph and was the earliest hurricane to make landfall in the contingent U.S since 1825, or in over 140 years! The National Hurricane Center has been keeping records of storms since 1850, but it is believed that in 1825 there was a strong tropical system, probably a hurricane, that made landfall along the Eastern U.S.
Hurricane Alma produced about 210 million of damage in today’s currency and over 90 people were killed. Most of the deaths were caused by flash flooding in Honduras. Although it missed the Florida peninsula Alma did produce high winds and heavy rain in the Miami and Tampa areas.
Again, with June being the first month of hurricane season it is rare to have a hurricane develop in the month let alone hit the U.S.! About half of all Junes on record have not even featured a name storm.
Source of information: NOAA Hurricane Research Division
Story Image: Satellite imagery of Hurricane Alma in the Gulf of Mexico on June 7th, 1966, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/NOAA