Millions of people evacuate their homes as Hurricane Floyd moves across the Atlantic Ocean on this day in 1999. Over the next several days, deaths are recorded from the Bahamas to New England due to the powerful storm.
Floyd began as a tropical storm on September 7 and attained hurricane status three days later. By September 12, its winds had reached 140 miles per hour as the storm approached the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Floyd skirted past these islands, though, leaving relatively minor damage in its wake.
On September 14, Floyd approached the Bahamas and looked to be on a collision course with central Florida. Walt Disney World closed its doors in preparation for the first time in its history and NASA operations at Cape Canaveral were shut down to get ready for the coming storm. In all, approximately 3 million people evacuated their homes. Meanwhile, the Bahamas were spared a direct hit and, although millions of dollars in damages were incurred, only one person was killed.
Gaining strength over the warm waters of the Caribbean, Floyd was a Category 4 storm when it hit the Florida coast the next day. It turned out to be North Carolina that bore the brunt of Floyd, however, as it landed a direct hit on the state’s Cape Fear region. Torrential rains caused flooding that ended in the drowning deaths of 56 people and 6,000 houses were lost to the storm. Floyd brought rain and flooding with it all the way up the Eastern seaboard to Connecticut. In all, 68 people died from Hurricane Floyd. Out of deference to the destruction it caused, the National Hurricane Center retired the name “Floyd” in the spring of 2000.
The year 1999 was a big one for hurricanes: There were five Category 4 or 5 hurricanes during the season. This may have been a symptom of global warming—scientists believe that although the phenomenon may not be increasing the number of hurricanes per season, it may be increasing their strength.