This Month in Climate History: Hurricane Connie

Map of rainfall from Hurricane Connie August 11-15, 1955

After first passing inland in North Carolina, Connie moved over the Mid-Atlantic, New England, and the Great Lakes, setting the stage for heavy rainfall across the area. Credit: National Centers for Environmental Prediction Hurricane Connie Report

On August 3, 1955, Hurricane Connie began its formation in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Just two days later, Connie was already a well-developed hurricane moving toward Puerto Rico. After Connie’s heavy rains and strong winds devastated the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, she turned northwest and headed toward the East Coast of the United States.

At her peak, Hurricane Connie had wind speeds that reached 145 mph, but as she turned toward the East Coast, she began to weaken. Despite this reduction, Connie still hit the North Carolina coastline the morning of August 12 with winds near 80 mph. Winds as high as 40 mph were even recorded in the central piedmont region of the state, as Connie crossed North Carolina along a northerly path from Cape Lookout to Elizabeth City.

Connie also brought high tides to many areas along the coast, causing considerable damage to beaches, low-lying farmlands, and towns and cities along the sounds and river mouths. With her strong winds, high tides, and heavy rainfall, North Carolina sustained considerable damage to crops and property. However, once Connie passed to the north, Hurricane Diane struck the state just five days later on August 17 causing further damage.

After hitting North Carolina, Connie briefly moved offshore before making landfall near Cape Charles along the eastern shore of Virginia. She stuck the coastal areas of Virginia with gale-force winds and excessive rains, with some areas receiving nearly 10 inches causing damage across the eastern third of the state.

Connie continued to move northward overspreading southern New England with intense rainfall that caused many rivers to rise rapidly. Rains from both Connie and Diane led to several dam breaks along the Blackstone River in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, causing significant flooding and destruction. Substantial flooding also affected areas in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. In Westfield, Massachusetts, the Westfield River exceeded its previous record stage by nearly five feet. By the time Connie and Diane exited the region, over 200 dams in the New England area suffered partial or total failure.

Connie and Diane caused significant destruction along the Atlantic coastline, from North Carolina to Massachusetts from wind, waves, and inland flooding. By the time the hurricanes moved on, all of the states suffered major damage, but Connecticut was the hardest hit. Of the 180 lives lost during the two hurricanes, 77 of those deaths occurred in Connecticut.

For more information on Hurricanes Connie and Diane, see: