Matt Hines

CJM 347
Case Study #1
Hurricane Betsy was not only one of the deadliest storms in United States history, but also
one of the most costly we’ve ever experienced. At Betsy’s peak the eye of the storm was 40
miles in diameter and it was causing so much damage that it earned the name “Billion Dollar
Betsy” since the storm caused over one billion dollars in damage. The storm began as a tropical
disturbance spotted on August 23, 1965. Just four days later a nearby US Navy reconnaissance
airplane tracked winds that were high enough to upgrade Betsy from a tropical disturbance to a
tropical depression. The storm was named “Betsy” later that day, and two days later on August
29, the storm had become so intense that it was officially classified as a hurricane. The storm lost
and re-achieved it’s hurricane status as it ran rampant north of Puerto Rico. The hurricane needed
up passing 350 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida, and at this point the residents of Florida
felt like they could take a sigh of relief as the people living in the Carolinas were to prepare for
disaster. However, on September 4th it took a major loop due to a blocking ridge of high pressure
and turned southwest at Florida once again. The hurricane passed over the Bahamas but made its
first landfall in Key Largo, Florida, on September 8, 1965, where it was considered a category
three hurricane. As it moved out of Florida and into New Mexico it shifted once again, this time
intensifying to a category four with winds up to 155mph. The storm was once again influenced
by the ridge of high pressure that hit it just three days prior, although this time it took it
northwestward. The storm ended up going through Louisiana and continuing up the Mississippi
River with intense winds of around 100mph. By September 10th the storm was whittled down to

diminishing winds over Arkansas. It eventually ended up as a small tropical storm that quietly
died down in Ohio Valley.
Leading up to Hurricane Betsy, there were many precautions taken that ended up paying off in
the long run. One specific instance was NASA deciding to delay the erection of an Atlas-Centaur
rocket at Cape Kennedy that was going to be used to launch to the moon. Another was that at
Brunswick they evacuated 21 jet-fighter bombers, along with the personnel stationed at Allen
Cay evacuating to the Grand Bahamas. In the Carolinas Red Cross volunteers set up multiple
district headquarters to provide services during and after the storm such as communications and
first-aid. They also prepared by stocking seven vans with food and supplies that would wait
outside the city to aid those in need. Finally, the United States Department of Agriculture
arranged extra food supplies in the event of the two states going into a state of emergency. In
Florida they prepared by evacuating and cancelling flights, readying 9,000 hot dogs,
8,000 hamburgers, and 6,000 servings of chicken for donation, keeping supply stores open on
Labor Day so that people could get the supplies they needed, and evacuating an estimated 50,000
Though the storm had inconsistent periods of intensity throughout it’s life, the total damage it
did is overwhelming to say the least. By the storm’s end it caused a total of $1.425 billion in
damage costs. Before Betsy, a tropical cyclone had never before caused $1 billion in damage. If
you factor in inflation relative to today’s costs, Betsy would be the third most expensive storm in
United States history, with a cost of $8.4 billion. Fortunately the storm only ended up killing 75
people in the US, which is a lot better than it could have been. With all the intense winds and
raging flooding I’m personally surprised that more people weren’t killed. During the storm
hundreds of people were evacuating their cities in fear that the storm would come their way next

since it took such a strange path when it was off Florida’s coast. The evacuations saved many
lives since they weren’t home to watch their home be smashed, flooded, or destroyed. After the
storm finally passed and people could return home, they were faced with many hardships.
Residents were stuck with homes literally filled with water from the flooding, no electricity, and
a struggle for food. Like most hurricanes the flooding after is what left some of the most dreadful
effects in the long run. It took a long time to clear out all the water and rebuild what the storm
annihilated in it’s tracks. Because of Hurricane Betsy The US Army Corps of Engineers designed
and built new levees for New Orleans that were both taller and made of stronger material than
Hurricane Betsy definitely had a detrimental impact on society. It tore down thousands of
buildings and homes, swept away communities and organizations, and cost the country more
than we got afford. There were over 70,000 people left homeless after the storm due to the 16foot high water caused by the flooding. Local lakes and rivers were over flowing from all the
water and it continued to rise until people couldn’t walk around outside at all anymore. Locally
everyone’s daily lives were changed entirely; it would take months for them to get back to living
normally again with a home, job, and stable income of wealth, food and water. Luckily for these
people there was assistance being given to them almost right away following the disaster.
Organizations like Red Cross, the United States Navy and the United States Air Force were all
playing major roles in helping the people who were hurt by the storm. They were providing food,
shelter, transportation, future predictions and outlooks, and all the other aid the people needed
after the disaster. Without their help the people would have been stranded; they would have had
no homes, nothing to eat, and nowhere to go. Fortunately the United States has done a good job
making sure major disasters are fought against well.

In my opinion I believe Hurricane Betsy was one of the most important disasters when talking
about why the United States created FEMA. This disaster not only showed why every single
state must be ready, regardless of where the storm starts off, but also showed how expensive
these natural disasters can be without the proper protection and maintenance. Living in America
we all know how important money is and you know they’d hate to see another billion dollar
This was truly a destructive storm that caused whole ton of damage to many parts of the
United States. It’s statistics show how powerful high-speed winds and vicious floods can really
be. Hopefully we don’t suffer another one of these storms, and if we do hopefully we’ll be better
prepared for it!

Source Citation:

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"Hurricane Betsy - September 6-13, 1965." Hurricane Betsy - September 6-13,

1965. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
"Major Hurricane Betsy: 08/27/1965 - 09/13/1965." Weather Underground. N.p.,

n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
"Remembering Hurricane Betsy - 50 Years Ago." WWLTV. N.p., n.d. Web. 01

Feb. 2016.
Times-Picayune, The. "1965: Hurricane Betsy Smashes Ashore near New
Orleans." N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.