50th Anniversary of Hurricane Dora’s St. Augustine landfall


LIFE magazine photo of Dora’s storm surge inundating the

Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, FL

On September 10, 1964, Hurricane Dora made landfall near St. Augustine, FL.  This was the first hurricane landfall in St. Augustine during the era of modern record keeping.  It was the second in a quartet of hurricanes to affect Florida in that year and caused considerable damage to northeast Florida.  Dora followed Cleo’s rampage up Florida’s east coast and was followed by Hilda, which inundated northern Florida, and Isbell, that struck southwest Florida.



Dora was a Cape Verde storm, forming as a tropical depression near those islands west of Africa in late August.  It didn’t intensify until it had traveled across the Main Development Region, becoming a Tropical Storm on Sept. 1st.  It turned northwestward at that time and continued to ramp up over the next five days, reaching peak sustained wind values of 130 mph (215 km/hr).  The hurricane failed to be picked up by a mid-latitude trough that hurricane forecasters had expected to cause it to recurve out to sea.  Instead Dora began a more westerly course which aimed it at northeast Florida.  On Sept. 9th, the hurricane slowed and began several loops as it was tracked by the Weather Bureau radar in Daytona Beach, finally making landfall near St. Augustine in the early morning hours of Sept. 10th with winds estimated around 115 mph (185 km/hr).  It continued its slightly north of west track slowly across the Florida panhandle as it weakened to a tropical storm, dumping over 20″ of rain on the Big Bend area.  It then was caught up in another mid-latitude trough which carried it quickly to the northeast as a frontal low, bringing substantial rains to Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.  During its life, Dora killed 5 people and caused US$250 million in damage.

The National Hurricane Research Laboratory flew ten missions into Dora from the time it was northeast of the Lesser Antilles until its final approach to the First Coast.  These flights included participation by Colorado State University collaborators Herb Riehl and Russ Elsberry and Linton R. Corruccini from NCAR.

Some papers using Hurricane Dora data:

  • Charles R. Holliday and Allen F. Flanders, 1966:  Weather note: Redefinition of Hurricane Dora over the Gulf Stream.  Mon. Wea. Rev., 94, 616–618.
  • Robert C. Sheets, 1969:  Some mean hurricane soundings.  J. Appl. Meteor., 8, 134–146.
  • Robert C. Sheets, 1965:  The three-dimensional large scale structure of Hurricane ‘Dora’ (1964).  Report ARL-1470-1, Grant NSF GF-172, Atmospheric Research Laboratory, The University of Oklahoma, Norman, 30 pp.
  • Robert C. Sheets, 1965:  On the structure of Hurricane ‘Dora’ (1964). NHRL Report No. 83, 64 pp.