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Hurricanes: Science and Society
1780- The Great Hurricane of 1780

Although specifics on this hurricane’s track and strength are unknown, forecasters and historians believe that the Great Hurricane of 1780 initially formed near the Cape Verde Islands on October 9, 1780. The hurricane strengthened and grew in size as it tracked slowly westward, first affecting Barbados, the western most Caribbean island, late on 9 October. The worst of the hurricane, with winds possibly exceeding 321.9 km/h (200 mph), passed over Barbardos late on 10 October 10 before moving past Martinique and St. Lucia early on 11 October. The hurricane passed near Puerto Rico and over the eastern portion of the Dominican Republic (at the time known known as Santo Domingo) on 14 October, causing heavy damage near the coastlines. Ultimately, the system turned to the northeast, passing 258 km (160 mi) southeast of Bermuda on 18 October. The hurricane was last observed on October 20, 1780, southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada.

Thousands of deaths were reported on each Caribbean island over which the cataclysmic hurricane crossed: 4,500 deaths occurred on Barbados (nearly every building on the island was leveled), 6,000 lost their lives on St. Lucia (where the island was essentially flattened), and approximately 9,000 died on Martinique. Over 27,500 total fatalities were estimated across the Lesser Antilles Islands as a result of this storm, making the Great Hurricane of 1780 the deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record.

Fast Facts:

  • In addition this devastating event, the Caribbean was shattered by two other violent hurricanes in October 1780: The Savanna-la-Mar Hurricane (one of the worst disasters in Jamaican history) and Solano’s Hurricane. Unfortunately, the year of 1780 marked a turning point in Caribbean history. In the wake of these storms, a historical period of prosperity ended, and an episode of economic and cultural decline began.
  • Coming in the midst of the American Revolutionary War, the 1780 hurricanes caused heavy losses to European fleets fighting for control of the New World’s Atlantic coast. A fleet of 40 French ships capsized off Martinique during the Great Hurricane, drowning approximately 4,000 soldiers. On St. Lucia, rough waves and a strong storm surge destroyed the British fleet of Admiral Rodney at Port Castries. Much of the British fleet was decimated by the three storms, and the English presence in the western North Atlantic was greatly reduced thereafter.


"The Great Hurricane of 1780". In: Library of Natural Disasters- Hurricanes, Typhoons, and Other Tropical Cyclones. 2008. Editor in Chief, Paul A. Kobasa. World Book. Chicago. Pp 14-15.

Wikipedia- The Great Hurricane of 1780: