On this day in 1979, the storm that will become Hurricane David forms near Cape Verde off the African coast in the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It would go on to devastate the island of Dominica, and then the Dominican Republic, killing 1,500 people.
On August 27, two days after forming, the storm reached hurricane status and headed straight for the Caribbean Sea. The small island of Dominica and its capital city, Roseau, took an extremely hard hit on August 29. Winds with speeds of up to 150 miles per hour devastated the island. Thirty-seven people died and 60,000 lost their homes, nearly 75 percent of the entire population. The banana and citrus crops, essential to the island’s economy, were wiped out. It was the worst storm to hit the island to that time.
At 1:30 a.m. the next day, the hurricane turned on Santo Domingo and the Dominican Republic. Now a Category 5 storm, it pummeled the island with 175 mph winds (and gusts over 200 mph) and waves as high as 20 to 30 feet. Mudslides caused by the storm proved to be particularly deadly in the Dominican Republic, where they killed nearly 1,200 people. The worst incident was in Padre Las Casas, where more than 400 people tied themselves together as they attempted to climb to higher ground, but were washed away when a dike broke, releasing a flood of water in their direction.
On September 1, David hit the Bahamas and, two days later, caused $60 million in damages in Florida. From there, the hurricane skipped up the coastline of the United States. Charleston, South Carolina, took a heavy hit and the storm caused flooding from Virginia to New York. Trees and power lines came down in many states. Hurricane David finally dissipated on September 7.