fifty years ago December 12, 1969 Archives

From the Archives (December 12, 1969): Weakening a hurricane

United States weather scientists think they may have succeeded in weakening a hurricane by seeding it. If they are right, it would appear to be the first time this has ever been done. Government scientists began a hurricane-seeding programme with that objective in the summer of 1962. Until this past summer, however, they had no real evidence of success. Analysis of hurricane Debbie, seeded with silver iodide on August 18 and 20, strongly suggests that the storm was weakened by man’s intervention. Experts believe that if hurricanes can be weakened before they hit populated shore areas, the savings might total millions of dollars and many lives every season. It is considered neither possible nor desirable to destroy a hurricane altogether, but a wind decrease of only 20 per cent or so might reduce greatly the storm’s toll. Several hours after Debbie was seeded on August 18, the storm’s maximum measured winds dropped about 31 per cent – from 98 knots, which is equivalent to about 113 statute miles an hour, to 68 knots, roughly 78 miles an hour. The storm was then several hundred miles northeast of Puerto Rico. There was no seeding on August 19 because the airplane crews that seeded and monitored the storm needed a rest from the gruelling experience.

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