Gulf Coast, LA, MS, AL, FL Hurricane BETSY, Sep 1965

Track of Hurricane Betsy

Hurricane Betsy was an intense and destructive tropical cyclone that brought widespread damage to areas of Florida and the central United States Gulf Coast in September 1965. The storm's erratic nature, coupled with its intensity and minimized preparation time contributed to making Betsy the first tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin to accrue at least $1 billion in damage. While the storm primarily affected areas of southern Florida and Louisiana, lesser effects were felt in The Bahamas and as far inland in the United States as the Ohio River Valley. Betsy began as a tropical depression north of French Guiana on August 27, and strengthened as it moved in a general northwestwardly direction. After executing a slight anticyclonic loop north of the Bahamas, Betsy proceeded to move through areas of South Florida on September 8, causing extensive crop damage. After emerging into the Gulf of Mexico, the cyclone strengthened and reached its peak intensity equivalent to that of a Category 4 hurricane on September 10 before making its final landfall near Grand Isle, Louisiana shortly thereafter. Once inland, Betsy was slow to weaken, and persisted for two more days before degenerating into an extratropical storm; these remnants lasted until September 13.

As a developing tropical cyclone, Betsy tracked over the northern Leeward Islands, producing moderate gusts and slight rainfall, though only minimal damage was reported. After tracking over open waters for several days, Betsy had significantly strengthened upon moving through the Bahamas. There, considerable damage occurred, particularly to crops on the archipelago's islands. For the island chain, Betsy was considered the worst hurricane since a tropical cyclone impacted the region in 1929. Widespread power outage and property damage ensued due to the storm's strong winds. Overall, damage on the Bahamas amounted to at least $14 million, and one fatality occurred. From there Betsy tracked westward and made landfall on southern Florida, where it was considered the worst tropical cyclone since a hurricane in 1926. Betsy's strong storm surge inundated large portions of the Florida Keys, flooding streets and causing widespread damage. The only route out of the Keys onto the mainland was cut off by the storm. In the state alone, Betsy caused $139 million in damage and five deaths.

Betsy's most severe impacts were felt in Louisiana, where it made landfall as a powerful Category 4 hurricane. The cyclone propelled damaging storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain, breaching levees in New Orleans and inundating several neighborhoods, most notably the Lower Ninth Ward. Strong winds caused widespread power and telecommunications outages across the region. Further inland, effects wrought by Betsy were considerably weaker, though precipitation caused by the storm extended as far northeast as Pennsylvania. Rainfall was primarily beneficial in Arkansas, though localized flooding impacted rice and cotton crops. In Kentucky and Illinois, strong winds caused moderate property damage. By the time the remnants of Betsy moved into the northeastern United States, the storm's winds and rainfall had substantially lessened, and as such resulting wind damage was negligible while precipitation benefited crops. In total, the damage wrought by Betsy throughout its existence equated to roughly $1.42 billion, making it the costliest Atlantic hurricane until it was surpassed by Hurricane Camille four years later. In addition the hurricane caused 81 deaths, primarily in Louisiana. After the season, the United States Weather Bureau retired the name Betsy from their rotating lists of tropical cyclone names.



I had been at Keesler 6 weeks after basic training and had started basic electronics classes. The local TV shows were warning about an approaching hurricane. True to military tradition, when we asked the Squadron First Sgt. what was happening and what do we do if it hits the base. Told to "stop asking stupid questions". That scared me even more if there were no contingency plans what actions would be taken. THIS IS AN ACTIVE AFB WITH PLANES, But not enough hangars and didn't know if hangars were strong enough. we got a meal delivered from the back of trucks and then we marched across the bas th the concrete/cinderblock school buildings. Climbed the stairs to 4th floor and we went into classrooms and told to find a high place in the room. This meant sleeping on steel tables used for class room work. Then the lights went out till the we were awakened in a black room led out to the daylight in the hallway.
Led back to our squadron area and counted. Then told to pick up the pine cones blown off the trees. Next thing I remember is a loud arcing sound and saw an AC transformer on a pole light up & explode in tremendous spark display. AF raincoats were the worst things except for a sponge in the rain. We were hungry and seemingly leaderless. I was a ham operator and went to base radio station K5TYP. We provided communications for others thru the MARS(Military Auxiliary Radio System). Much of Mississippi was still being hammered by the rest of Betsy.
That how I remember Betsy.