CBC Digital Archives CBC butterfly logo

CBC Archives has a new look: Please go to cbc.ca/archives to access the new site.

The page you are looking at will not be updated.

1959: Deadly hurricane strikes Escuminac, N.B.

The Story

June 19, 1959: a fierce hurricane lashes the Gulf of St. Lawrence, wreaking awesome damage and disaster on the New Brunswick coast. The storm devastates the small port of Escuminac, as 130 km/h winds and 15-meter waves sink 22 fishing boats and drown 35 men in the deadliest hurricane in Canadian history. The tragedy leaves 19 widows and 83 fatherless children, a catastrophic loss to a town of just 600 people.

Medium: Television
Program: The Fifth Estate
Broadcast Date: Nov. 25, 1975
Host: Adrienne Clarkson
Duration: 18:31

Did You know?

• The town of Springhill, N.S., itself a victim of costly tragedy, donated two tons of food aid for the affected families in Escuminac. Springhill suffered mining accidents in 1956 and 1958 that killed 113 men.

• Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were in Canada at the time, and were rumoured to have made a large anonymous donation to the relief fund established after the disaster. The Disaster Fund raised $440,000 in less than seven months.

• With the destruction of infrastructure, fishing equipment and lost boats, the storm caused approximately $1.8 million in damages in 1959 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that total is about $12.7 million.

• Escuminac residents Bernard and Cyril Jenkins received the British Empire Medal for rescuing several fisherman during the storm despite damages to their own small boat. Only 120 Canadian civilians have ever won this award for meritorious service.

• Despite its ferocity, the Escuminac hurricane (which was never officially named) was not the most powerful hurricane to strike Canada's shores. Hurricane Juan tore through Atlantic Canada in 2003, killing eight people, destroying 100 million trees and causing an estimated $150 million in damages. The Canadian Hurricane Centre recorded sustained winds of 158 km/h and a brief top speed 213 km/h.


Other Natural Disasters more