|Date(s):||February 17, 1871|
|Course:||“Rise And Fall of the Slave South,” University of Virginia|
A hurricane on Friday February 17, 1871 damaged and/or destroyed a majority of the
buildings in Helena, Arkansas. The city was still reeling from the recent fire that had caused
damage to many of the buildings that ended up being destroyed by the hurricane. Two known
fatalities were a Mrs. Stewart and her young son. The buildings and companies that suffered the
worst of the damage included the Baptist Church, Messrs Miles & Co.(commission merchants),
Ramsey & West(livery men), F.F. Howerton(dry goods), and Barlord & Morton(commission
merchants). The overall damage from the hurricane was estimated at between 75,000 and
100,000. The same hurricane also caused major damages in both Pocahontas and Iuka,
The South has always been a victim to hurricanes as they have left paths of destruction on
both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. These natural disasters have been recorded all the way back to
August 27, 1667 at Jamestown, Virginia in what was described as a dreadful Hurry Cane. On
average, there are 8 to 10 storms that become strong enough to be named by the U.S. Weather
Service (though storms were not named until the twentieth century). Hurricanes are considered
to be the most destructive natural disasters because of the variety of adverse weather conditions
they bring including heavy rainfall, high winds, flash floods, and powerful storm surges.
In the nineteenth century, hurricanes were natural phenomenons that uniquely affected
the South compared to other areas of the United States. Because hurricanes usually struck the
Gulf or Atlantic coasts, the North would be spared from much of the hurricane's damaging
effects. Also, the South's agricultural based economy is much more susceptible to severe
weather conditions. The high winds and large amounts of rain that a hurricane would dump on
Southern growing fields would do much more damage economically than the same effects would
have on the industrial North. While hurricanes were certainly nothing new to the South, this
particular hurricane was unique when taking into account the time at which it occurred.
Hurricane season for the Western Hemisphere usually runs roughly from June 1 to October 31.
It was strange to have the climate and water temperature in the Gulf region to create a hurricane
so far out of the usual peak season. It is likely that the irregular timing of the hurricane, and thus
decreased strength, was a reason for its low original death toll. Major hurricanes in the Gulf
region can leave hundreds and even thousands of people dead in their wake. Just 29 years after
this hurricane, another hurricane made landfall near Galveston, Texas. This devastating storm
killed 6,000 of the city's estimated 20,000 inhabitants.