Hurricane Gloria 1985

Preliminary Report
Hurricane Gloria
16 September - 02 October 1985


Tropical Storm Ana (TS)
Hurricane Bob (1)
Hurricane Claudette (1)
Hurricane Danny (1)
Hurricane Elena (3)
Tropical Storm Fabian (TS)
Hurricane Gloria (4)
Tropical Storm Henri (TS)
Tropical Storm Isabel (TS)
Hurricane Juan (1)
Hurricane Kate (3)

Gloria effected the northeastern United States from North Carolina through Maine. Sustained wind speeds of hurricane force were observed at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina; Bridgeport, Connecticut; and Blue Hill and Scituate, Massachusetts. Storm surge tiges ranged from 4 to 7 feet above predicted astronomical tide.


a. Synoptic History

The track of Gloria begins near the Cape Verde Islands on 16 September, when a low-level circulation was observed from the European METEOSAT satellite. Based strictly on satellite data, Gloria is estimated to have remained near minimal storm strength for several days while travelling toward the west to west-northwest at 17 to 23 mph across the tropical Atlantic Ocean.

Aircraft reconnaissance began on the 21st, when the storm was centered about 400 nautical miles east of the Lesser Antilles and moving west at 16 mph.

A hurricane watch was issued for the northern Leeward Islands midday on the 21st. On the next day, a reconnaissance aircraft measured a 78-mph wind speed at 1500 feet, at a location 25 nautical miles north of the center of the hurricane. Gloria was upgraded to a hurricane and hurricane warnings were issued for the watch area. The hurricane changed its direction of motion from due west to west-northwest, midday on the 22nd, and passed to the northof the Leeward Islands.

On the 24th, a hurricane was issued by the Bahamian Government for portions of the Bahamas. By this time, the hurricane's central pressure had fallen below 950 mb and reconnaissance winds at the 850 mb level were exceeding 105 mph. Gloria then made a turn to a northwest heading, allowing it to miss the Bahamas.

At 25/0120 UTC, the central pressure was estimated at 919 mb, based on extrapolation of an aircraft 700-mb height measurement. At 25/0510 UTC, the same aircraft measured a wind speed of 145 mph at 700 mb, 10 nautical miles east of the center. Based on this data, the maximum sustained surface wind speed is estimated at 144 mph. During this time, Gloria was centered at 25°N latitude, with a classical stadium-type wall cloud surrounding the eye, and it is assumed that there was little difference between the wind at the surface and at 700 mb.

A hurricane watch was issued of the afternoon of the 25th from South Carolina to Virginia, when Gloria was centered about 400 nautical miles east of Miami, Florida. Gloria gradually turned northward and began to weaken. On the morning of the 26th, the watch was changed to a warning and by that afternoon, the warning were extended northward to Massachusetts.

The center passed over the Outer Banks of North Carolina early on the 27th and weakened while accelerating north-northeastward. It's center passed just offshore of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey, so that the strongest winds remained over the water and these states experienced the weaker side of the hurricane. The center came ashore over western Long Island, about 10 hours after the North Carolina landfall, and Gloria became extratropical over Maine at 28/0000 UTC.

As an extratropical storm, Gloria moved across eastern Canada and back over the open waters of the far North Atlantic and gradually intensified over a period of several days. The storm produced unusual weather over portions of western Europe. For example, 4 October was the warmest October day during this century in Basel, Switzerland.

b. Meteorological Statistics

The hurricane was monitered by U.S. Air Force and NOAA reconnaissance aircraft from 21 - 27 September. There were 54 center penetrations, which averages out to one center fix every 2.7 hours for the 6-day period. In addition, NOAA conducted a synoptic-scale Omega dropwindsonde experiment on the 23rd and 24th, while Gloria was centered about 200 nautical miles north of Puerto Rico.

The center of the hurricane crossed the U.S. coast at Hatteras Island, North Carolina and Long Island, New York.

The NWS office at Buxton, North Carolina reported a minimum pressure of 947.5 mb at 27/0536 UTC and an aircraft reported an extrapolation from 700 mb of 942 mb at 27/0542 UTC, at a location about 10 nautical miles north of Buxton. The maximum sustained wind speed at Cape Point near Buxton was 74 mph, out of the east-southeast, at which time the center was located approximately 40 nautical miles to the south.

An automated station at Diamond Shoal Light, 14 nautical miles east-southeast of Cape Hatteras, reported 98 mph, sustained, at 27/0500 UTC with a peak gust of 120 mph. A rawinsonde was released at Cape Hatteras at 0600 UTC, very close to the time of the eye passage. This is a rare event and the sounding shows a warm, moist vertical profile in the lower atmosphere, similar to the few other such observations.

Sustained wind speeds generally remained below hurricane force to the west of the center as it accelerated toward Long Island and New England. However, a report of 92 mph, sustained, was received from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel at South island, Virginia.

The center moved ashore on western Long Island, between JFK airport and Islip. A 74-mph wind was reported from Bridgeport, Connecticut and there were 81-mph sustained winds in the Boston area, 60 nautical miles east of the center. However, these winds were measured at elevations well above sea level.

1. Storm Surge Data

Storm surge tides ranged from 4 to 7 feet above predicted astronomical tide levels over much of the coast from North Carolina from Massachusetts. Coastal flooding was somewhat minimized by the arrival of peak surge during low tide at many locations. Also, both wind and surge forcasts were higher than observed, because of the rapid weakening of the hurricane on the 27th.

c. Casualty and Damage Statistics

There were 11 deaths attributed to Gloria; 1 in North Carolina, 6 in Connecticut, 2 in Rhode Island and 2 in New Hampshire.

Wind damage was greater on the east side of the hurricane and resulted in downed trees causing extended power outages for hundreds of thousands of people in the northeast U.S. To the west of the center, from Virginia through New Jersey, the strongest winds were from the west to northwest....after the center had passed. Beach erosion and coastal flooding were severe along portions of the North Carolina Outer Banks. Considerable flooding also occurred in Pamlico Sound after the center passed. Significant beach erosion was reported from Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

The American Issurance Association has estimated insured property damage in 13 states at $340 Million. Ratios between total damage estimates and insured damage have ranged from 2 to 5 for previous hurricanes. Therefore the total damage for Gloria is estimated at $900 Million.

Maximum Intensity For Hurricane Gloria
16 September - 02 October, 1985

Position Pressure
Wind Speed
Lat. (°N) Lon. (°W)
25/0120 25.1 70.9 919 145 Category 4 Hurricane

Landfall for Hurricane Gloria
16 September - 02 October, 1985
Wind Speed
Stage Landfall
27/0530 942 105 Category 2 Hurricane Hatteras Island,
North Carolina
27/1600 961  85 Category 1 Hurricane Long Island,
New York