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Weather History: The Saxby Gale

Lyndsay Morrison, staff writer

October 5, 2010 — On this day in 1869, a powerful cyclone slammed into the Bay of Fundy. The storm would come to be known as the Saxby Gale.

Widespread damage was reported along the shorelines of the Bay of Fundy
Widespread damage was reported along the shorelines of the Bay of Fundy

It was one of the worst natural disasters in New Brunswick's history.

On the evening of October 4th, a tremendous storm tore across the Bay of Fundy. Coastal areas in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine suffered major damage.

The storm hit during some of the highest perigean tides, stirring up waves about two metres high. Almost every river from Pennsylvania to New Brunswick was flooded. The gale destroyed miles of the newly completed Windsor and Annapolis Railway. More than 100 people died in the Maritimes alone.

The storm hit before the normal practice of naming hurricanes, so the system officially became known as the Saxby Gale. Lieutenant Stephen Martin Saxby was a naval engineer who thought he knew a lot about weather. He believed that the winds and the tides were affected by the moon. Saxby had written a letter of warning in which he noted the astronomical forces predicted for October 5, 1869, would produce extremely high tides.

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