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Hurricane Hilda was a strong Category 3 hurricane in the 1955 Atlantic hurricane season. The name was not retired even though the storm killed 300 people and caused over $800 million (2005 US dollars) in damage during its course through the Caribbean Seamarker and Gulf of Mexicomarker.

Meteorological history

On September 10, a westward moving tropical wave organized into a tropical depression over the northern Lesser Antilles. It moved to the northwest, and with favorable upper level winds and warm water temperatures, it strengthened into Tropical Storm Hilda on the 11th. Hilda, a small storm, quickly intensified as it moved westward, and became a hurricane on the 12th while north of the Mona Passagemarker. The storm continued to intensify, and reached 95 mph winds before turning to the west-southwest. Hilda crossed the Guantánamo Province coastline in eastern Cubanmarker on the night of the 13th, and quickly weakened to a tropical storm.

20 hours after making landfall, Hilda reached the Caribbean Seamarker as a 70 mph tropical storm. Still retaining its small and compact windfield, the storm was able to intensify under the favorable conditions of the Western Caribbean Sea. Hilda became a hurricane again on September 14, and reached major hurricane status on the night of the 15th. The hurricane lost some intensity as it neared the Yucatán Peninsulamarker, and hit the sparsely populated area between Chetumalmarker and Cozumelmarker on the 16th as a 110 mph hurricane.

Hilda crossed the peninsula, and retained winds of at least 95 mph over land. If it weakened over land, it is impossible to know the sparse information readings and lack of reconnaissance aircraft at this time. Upon reaching the Gulf of Mexicomarker on September 17, Hilda again was able to strengthen. It continued its westward track, likely due to a ridge of high pressure to the north, and reached a peak of 130 mph on the 18th in the western Bay of Campeche. The hurricane weakened prior to landfall, and hit near Tampico, Mexicomarker on the 19th as a 95 mph hurricane. Hilda rapidly weakened over Mexicomarker, and dissipated on the 20th.

Impact

In Tampico, Mexicomarker, Hilda dropped heavy rains and flooding that left half of the city flooded. The Panuco River was at its highest level in 30 years. Maximum sustained winds were up to 105 mph, with wind gusts estimated at 150 mph. In all, Hilda caused $120 million in damage, with 300 people reported killed.

Lack of retirement

Despite the damage, Hilda was not retired. Had it been retired, though, the 1955 hurricane season would have had 5 retired storms, tied for the record with 2005. But in 1965 the name Hilda was later retired because of Hurricane Hilda that struck Louisiana in the 1964 season.

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