The Hurricane of 1916 in Mobile and Pensacola

1916 Hurricane Damage
July 5, 1916 Hurricane Damage on Municipal wharf at Mobile - NOAA
July 5, 1916 Weather Map
July 5, 1916 Weather Map Showing Hurricane in Gulf

July 5, 1916 saw a Category 3 hurricane strike the Mobile-Pensacola region of the Gulf Coast. This was 10 years after a significant hurricane strike, in 1906, and 10 years before another significant hurricane strike in 1926. Watch the First Alert Storm Team’s hurricane special program for more on all three of these historic storms.

The text that follows is a condensed account from “Monthly Weather Review”, by meteorologists at that time. Note that spelling and grammar were not the same as it is now.


Hurricane warnings were ordered at 9 a.m. on the day of landfall, from Mobile westward, and northeast storm warnings

Hurricane Damage from 1916
Hurricane of 1916 in Mobile- USA Archives

extended eastward. At about 11 a.m. the chief of police was requested to notify parties along the river front that high tides were expected. The telegraph line to Fort Morgan was down from July 4, and the telephonic communication to points in Baldwin County, Ala., was interrupted before the warning could be sent out.

The storm passed inland on the Mississippi coast during the afternoon with a barometer reading of 28.92 inches at Mobile at 4:45 p.m. The maximum wind velocity was about 106 miles an hour, the highest velocity ever reported at that station. At Pensacola the maximum wind velocity was 104 miles an hour from the southeast at 2:32 p.m., also the highest velocity ever reported at that station.

1916 Hurricane in Mobile
Hurricane of July 5, 1916 in Mobile, on Dauphin Street, between Water Street and Royal Street, Courtesy USA Archives

The hurricane was more destructive within the city limits of Mobile than any other storm in the recorded history. The entire wholesale business district was inundated, and on St. Francis Street the water extended inland about four blocks. Storm tide was 11.6 feet above average.

After the morning of the 6th the storm hovered over (central and northern) Mississippi and Alabama for three days with torrential rains that caused great floods in the rivers of the East Gulf States and enormous damage to growing crops.

1916 Hurricane Flooding
July 1916, Hurricane Flooding on Tombigbee River – NOAA

Unfortunately several lives were lost along the middle Gulf coast, mainly persons in small boats. Marine casualties were of a minor character but the aggregate losses amounted to several millions of dollars, distributed principally between the cities of Pensacola and Mobile and the agricultural sections of southeastern Mississippi and southwestern Alabama. The high tides were responsible for the major portion of the coast damage.


Hurricane Aftermath in 1916
Hurricane of 1916 Aftermath on Government Street in Mobile – USA Archives

To put this storm in perspective, consider that it was before satellite and radar and modern technology, and before the hundreds of thousands of homes and people appeared on the Gulf Coast. Note that the storm tide in Mobile was roughly equivalent to that of Hurricane Katrina. The dollar damage then of several million dollars, adjusted to inflation, would be over 65 million dollars.
Read the full summary here http://docs.lib.noaa.gov/rescue/mwr/044/mwr-044-07-0400.pdf

USA Archives photo credit goes to The Doy Leale McCall Library at the University of South Alabama.

Storm Track of Hurricane
NOAA Storm Track of Hurricane of July 5, 1916

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