National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce
Hurricane Carmen
August 29-September 10, 1974

SMS-1 visible satellite image of Hurricane Carmen just off the Louisiana Coast September 7, 1974 at 3:30 PM CDT.
Above: SMS-1 visible satellite image of Hurricane Carmen just off the Louisiana Coast September 7, 1974 at 3:30 PM CDT.

Hurricane Carmen originated as a tropical wave moving off the African coast on August 24th. For the next several days, the wave moved due west gradually becoming better organized. Early on August 29th, the system organized enough to be classified as a tropical Depression east of the Lesser Antilles. By daybreak on August 30th, the system reached tropical storm status, given the name Carmen.

With strong high pressure ridging to the north, Tropical Storm Carmen continued westward across the Northern Caribbean Sea, remaining just south of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, as shown by SMS-1 visible satellite imagery August 30th at 1700z. By daybreak on August 31st, Carmen reached minimum hurricane intensity. Slow strengthening continued for the remainder of the 31st as the hurricane moved south of Jamaica.

Carmen strengthened to a category two storm just after midnight on September 1st, and continued to intensify rapidly, reaching category three by daybreak, and category four by the afternoon hours. Carmen reached the first peak intensity of 150 mph (130 knots) and a minimum sea level pressure of 928 millibars (27.40 inches) early on September 2nd. With little change in intensity, Carmen made landfall across the Yucatán Peninsula just south of Mahahual around 6 AM CDT September 2nd. Carmen slowly weakened during the day but still remained well organized. Carmen was downgraded to a strong tropical storm later that evening.

Steering currents significantly weakened with a digging long wave trough over the Central U.S. and Northern Gulf of Mexico, which allowed for Carmen to begin drifting northwest, re-emerging across the Gulf of Mexico near Campeche the afternoon of September 3rd. Carmen continued to move slowly as steering currents weakened further from the southward digging longwave trough over the Gulf of Mexico on September 4th. Carmen began to slowly regain some organization.

By September 5th, mid to upper level high pressure strengthened off the Southeast U.S. and Caribbean Sea, coupled with the weakening upper level trough over the Gulf, allowed Carmen to move northward and gradually intensify. Carmen reached hurricane strength by daybreak on September 5th, with slow strengthening for the remainder of the day.

Carmen’s northward speed slowly increased on September 6th over the Central Gulf of Mexico. Carmen continued to intensify, reaching category two by late morning.  Carmen steadily intensified to a category three later that evening, and a category four hurricane during the late morning and afternoon hours of September 7th as it was nearing the Louisiana coast. Carmen reached its secondary peak intensity of 150 mph (130 knots) and a minimum sea level pressure of 937 millibars (27.67 inches) just off the Southeast Louisiana coast by 7 PM CDT that evening.

By the evening of September 7th, Carmen began to move northwest, posing more of a threat to the South-Central Louisiana Coast, and slowly weaken as cooler and drier air likely entrained into the core of the hurricane. The National Weather Service WSR-57 radar in Slidell, Louisiana at 12:45 AM CDT September 8th showed a very degraded radar structure with most of the radar echoes absent from the center southward into the Gulf. Carmen made landfall as a category three hurricane with winds around 120 mph (105 knots) across coastal Terrebonne parish around Midnight September 8th. Carmen continued to move along coastal St. Mary Parish, finally moving inland just north of Cypremort Point, Louisiana at 4 AM CDT. Carmen continued to rapidly weaken to a category one hurricane located just north of Abbeville, Louisiana by 7 AM CDT. Carmen, now moving west northwest, weakened to a tropical storm near Eunice, Louisiana by 1 PM CDT. Carmen further weakened to a tropical depression just west of De Ridder, Louisiana by 7 PM CDT that evening. Carmen continued to weaken as it moved westward across East Texas September 9th, eventually dissipating on September 10th across Central Texas. Click here for an interactive track of Hurricane Carmen.

Like Hurricane Edith just three years prior, damage to crops was extensive, especially to sugarcane, across Vermilion, Iberia, and St. Mary parishes. The oil and gas industry were also affected due to damage to equipment and offshore facilities. Further inland across St. Martin, Lafayette, Acadia, and St. Landry parishes, power outages were common due to powerlines and poles downed, with extensive tree limb breakage and some trees uprooted. Signs and billboards were damaged or toppled, along with some damage to roofs, mobile homes, barns and lighter structures.

The highest peak wind gust of 110 mph was recorded on an oil rig in Bayou Boeuf near Amelia, Louisiana. A peak wind gust of 86 mph was recorded at Morgan City, Louisiana with a minimum sea level pressure of 982 millibars (29.00 inches). Higher wind gusts likely occurred along coastal St. Mary and Terrebonne parishes, but observations were unavailable. Lafayette, Louisiana recorded a maximum sustained wind of 52 mph (45 knots) and a peak wind gust of 82 mph (71 knots), along with a minimum sea level pressure of 984.8 millibars (29.08 inches) around 7:55 AM CDT. Further inland away from the center, tropical storm force winds of 50 to 70 mph were recorded over the remainder of Central and Southern Louisiana. For complete meteorological statistics, see the Wind and Pressure section.

Post storm high water mark surveys conducted by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers revealed the highest water mark of storm surge of 11.6 feet MSL near Cocodrie, Louisiana in Terrebonne parish. West of the mouth of the Atchafalaya river, storm surge values across coastal Iberia and St. Mary Parishes ranged from 3 to 5 feet MSL. For other storm surge and high-water marks across our region, see the Storm Surge section.

Rainfall of 5 to 8 inches along the track of Carmen was common across Vermilion parish, with 3 to 5 inches across the remainder of South Central and Western Louisiana, as well as East Texas. Flooding was common in low lying areas across South Louisiana due to the heavy rainfall and in some cases, the combination of storm surge and heavy rainfall. For complete rainfall totals reported across our region, see the Rainfall section.

A couple of tornadoes were reported across South Central Louisiana on September 8th. An F1 tornado occurred at Franklin in St. Mary Parish around 5:10 AM CDT. An F1 tornado occurred at Abbeville in Vermilion parish around 10:00 AM CDT, injuring one person. For complete details on all the tornadoes reported, see the Tornadoes section.

Additional Data, Maps, Tables 
Wind and Pressure Storm Surge Rainfall Tornadoes


Other Post Tropical Cyclone Reports
National Hurricane Center Hurricane Carmen Storm Wallet of Documents
Monthly Weather Review - 1974 Atlantic Hurricane Season
Lake Charles, LA

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