The Ash Wednesday Storm. Four words that still stir memories on the Outer Banks, even 60 years later.
What was formally named “The Great Atlantic Coast Storm of 1962” by the then-U.S. Weather Bureau gained its name associated with the first day of Lent from famed Outer Banks publicist Aycock Brown.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, what would be classified today as an extratropical cyclone was comparable in strength to the most intense hurricanes of historical record and was one of the 10 most powerful storms to strike the U.S. in the 20th century.
The Ash Wednesday Storm killed 40 people and injured a thousand more and caused hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage from Daytona Beach to Cape Cod.
On the Outer Banks, sixty buildings were destroyed and more than 1,200 others were heavily damaged. Property damage estimates were more than $234 million by today’s standards. A new inlet was cut between Avon and Buxton.
Despite the massive destruction, no deaths were recorded on the Outer Banks.
An unusual combination of three separate weather systems along with the new moon spring tide, the Ash Wednesday Storm pounded coastal areas with rain, high winds and tidal surges that lasted three days, and dumped massive snow fall inland for several hundred miles.
Snow fell as far south as Alabama, and temperatures plunged to around 32 degrees across Florida. Even southeastern Virginia experienced blizzard conditions.
In 2020, Dare County’s CurrentTV produced a video for the Outer Banks History Center that included first hand accounts of those who survived The Ash Wednesday Storm.