List of Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes

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Hurricane Isabel, as seen from the International Space Station in September 2003.

The list of Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes encompasses 31 tropical cyclones that reached Category 5 strength on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale within the Atlantic Ocean (north of the equator), Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Hurricanes of such intensity are somewhat infrequent in the Atlantic basin, occurring only once every three years on average.

Only five times—in the 1932, 1933, 1961, 2005, and 2007 hurricane seasons—has more than one Category 5 hurricane formed. Only in 2005 have more than two Category 5 hurricanes formed, and only in 2007 has more than one made landfall at Category 5 strength.[1]

Background[edit]

Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale
TD TS C1 C2 C3 C4 C5
Tracks of all known Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes between 1851 and 2014

A Category 5 Atlantic hurricane is one that is considered by the United States National Hurricane Center (NHC), to have had sustained wind speeds greater than 137 knots (158 mph; 254 km/h) on the Saffir–Simpson scale.[2] The NHC considers sustained wind speeds to be those that occur, over a one-minute period at 10 metres (32 ft 9.7 in) above ground. These wind speeds are estimated by using a blend of data from a variety of sources, which include observations from nearby ships, reconnaissance aircraft, or automatic weather stations and pictures from various satellites.

Between 1924 and 2016, 31 hurricanes were recorded at Category 5 strength. No Category 5 hurricanes were observed officially before 1924. It can be presumed that earlier storms reached Category 5 strength over open waters, but the strongest winds were not measured. The anemometer, a device used for measuring wind speed, was invented in 1846. However, during major hurricane strikes the instruments as a whole were often blown away, leaving the hurricane′s peak intensity unrecorded. For example, as the Great Beaufort Hurricane of 1879 struck North Carolina, the anemometer cups were blown away when indicating 138 mph (222 km/h).[3]

A reanalysis of weather data is ongoing by researchers who may upgrade or downgrade other Atlantic hurricanes currently listed at Categories 4 and 5.[4] For example, the 1825 Santa Ana hurricane is suspected to have reached Category 5 strength.[5] Furthermore, paleotempestological research aims to identify past major hurricanes by comparing sedimentary evidence of recent and past hurricane strikes. For example, a "giant hurricane" significantly more powerful than Hurricane Hattie (Category 5) has been identified in Belizean sediment, having struck the region sometime before 1500.[6]

Officially, the decade with the most Category 5 hurricanes is 2000–2009, with eight Category 5 hurricanes having occurred: Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Emily (2005), Katrina (2005), Rita (2005), Wilma (2005), Dean (2007), and Felix (2007). The previous decades with the most Category 5 hurricanes were the 1930s and 1960s, with six occurring between 1930 and 1939 (before naming began).[1]

Seven Atlantic hurricanes—Camille, Allen, Andrew, Isabel, Ivan, Dean and Felix—reached Category 5 intensity on more than one occasion; that is, by reaching Category 5 intensity, weakening to a Category 4 or lower, and then becoming a Category 5 again. Such hurricanes have their dates shown together. Camille, Andrew, Dean and Felix each attained Category 5 status twice during their lifespans. Allen, Isabel and Ivan reached Category 5 intensity on three separate occasions. However, no Atlantic hurricane has reached Category 5 intensity more than three times during its lifespan. The November 1932 Cuba hurricane holds the record for most time spent as a Category 5 (although it took place before satellite or reconnaissance so the record may be somewhat suspect).[1][7]

An October Category 5 that hit Cuba in 1924

Thirty-one Category 5s have been recorded in the Atlantic basin since 1851, when records began. Only one Category 5 has been recorded in July, eight in August, nineteen in September, four in October, and one in November. There have been no officially recorded June or off-season Category 5 hurricanes.[1]

The July and August Category 5s reached their high intensities in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. These are the areas most favorable for tropical cyclone development in those months.[1][8]

September sees the most Category 5 hurricanes. This coincides with the climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which occurs in early September.[9] September Category 5s reached their strengths in any of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and open Atlantic. These places are where September tropical cyclones are likely to form.[8] Many of these hurricanes are either Cape Verde-type storms, which develop their strength by having a great deal of open water; or so-called Bahama busters, which intensify over the warm Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico.[10]

All six Category 5s in October and November reached their intensities in the western Caribbean, a region that Atlantic hurricanes strongly gravitate toward late in the season.[8] This is due to the climatology of the area, which sometimes has a high-altitude anticyclone that promotes rapid intensification late in the season, as well as warm waters.

Systems[edit]

Name Dates as a
Category 5
Duration
( hours)
Sustained
wind speeds
Pressure Areas affected Deaths Damage
(USD)
Refs
"Cuba" October 19, 1924 12 hours 165 mph (270 km/h) 910 hPa (26.87 inHg) Central America, Mexico, Cuba, Florida, The Bahamas 90 [11]
San Felipe II-Okeechobee September 13-14, 1928 12 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 929 hPa (27.43 inHg)
"Bahamas" September 5–6, 1932 24 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 921 hPa (27.20 inHg)
"Cuba" November 5–8, 1932 78 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 915 hPa (27.02 inHg)
"Cuba–Brownsville" August 30, 1933 12 160 mph (260 km/h) 930 hPa (27.46 inHg)
"Tampico" September 21, 1933 12 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 929 hPa (27.43 inHg)
"Labor Day" September 3, 1935 18 hours 185 mph (295 km/h) 892 hPa (26.34 inHg)
"New England" September 19–20, 1938 18 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 940 hPa (27.76 inHg)
Carol September 3, 1953 12 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 929 hPa (27.43 inHg)
Janet September 27–28, 1955 18 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 914 hPa (26.99 inHg) Lesser Antilles, Central America 676 $47.8 million [12]
Carla September 11, 1961 18 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 931 hPa (27.49 inHg) Texas, Louisiana, Midwestern United States 46 $408 million [13][14]
Hattie October 30–31, 1961 18 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 920 hPa (27.17 inHg) Central America 319 $60.3 million [15][16]
Beulah September 20, 1967 18 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 921 hPa (27.20 inHg) The Caribbean, Mexico, Texas 59 $208 million [17]
Camille August 16–18, 1969 30 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 900 hPa (26.58 inHg) Cuba, United States Gulf Coast 256 $1.42 billion [13][18][19]
Edith September 9, 1971 6 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 943 hPa (27.85 inHg)
Anita September 2, 1977 12 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 926 hPa (27.34 inHg Mexico 10 Extensive [20]
David August 30–31, 1979 42 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 924 hPa (27.29 inHg) The Caribbean, United States East coast 2,068 $1.54 billion [21][22]
Allen August 5 - 9, 1980 72 hours 190 mph (305 km/h) 899 hPa (26.55 inHg) The Caribbean, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, South Texas 269 $1.24 billion [21][23][24]
Gilbert September 13–14, 1988 24 hours 185 mph (295 km/h) 888 hPa (26.22 inHg) Venezuela, Central America, Hispaniola, Mexico 318 $5 billion [25][26]
Hugo September 15, 1989 6 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 918 hPa (27.11 inHg) The Caribbean, United States East Coast 56 $8.5 billion [18][27][28]
Andrew August 23 – 24, 1992 16 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 922 hPa (27.23 inHg) The Bahamas, Florida, United States Gulf Coast 65 $26.5 billion [18][29]
Mitch October 26–28, 1998 42 hours 180 mph (285 km/h) 905 hPa (26.72 inHg) Central America, Yucatán Peninsula, South Florida 11,000 $6.2 billion [30][31][32][33]
Isabel September 11 - 14, 2003 42 hours 165 mph (270 km/h) 915 hPa (27.02 inHg) Greater Antilles, Bahamas, Eastern United States, Ontario 50 $5.37 billion [18][34]
Ivan September 9 – 14, 2004 60 hours 165 mph (270 km/h) 910 hPa (26.87 inHg) The Caribbean, Venezuela, United States Gulf Coast 124 $23.3 billion [18][35][36]
Emily July 16, 2005 6 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 929 hPa (27.44 inHg) Windward Islands, Jamaica, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, Texas 17 $1.01 billion [37]
Katrina August 28 – 29, 2005 18 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 902 hPa (26.64 inHg) Bahamas, United States Gulf Coast 1,836 $108 billion [38]
Rita September 21 – 22, 2005 24 hours 180 mph (290 km/h) 895 hPa (26.43 inHg) Cuba, United States Gulf Coast 62 $12 billion [39]
Wilma October 19, 2005 18 hours 185 mph (295 km/h) 882 hPa (26.05 inHg) Greater Antilles, Central America, Florida 23 $29.3 billion [40][41][42][43]
Dean August 18 – 21, 2007 24 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 905 hPa (26.72 inHg) The Caribbean, Central America 45 $1.78 billion [21][44][45]
Felix September 3–4, 2007 24 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 929 hPa (27.43 inHg) Nicaragua, Honduras 130 $720 million [46][47][48][49]
Matthew October 1, 2016 12 hours 165 mph (270 km/h) 934 hPa (27.58 inHg) Antilles, Venezuela, Colombia, United States East Coast, Atlantic Canada [50]
Overall reference for Name, dates, duration, winds and pressure:[1]

Listed by month[edit]


Landfalls[edit]

Hurricane Camille, a landfalling Category 5

All Atlantic Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall at some location at some strength. Most Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic make landfall because of their proximity to land in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, where the usual synoptic weather patterns carry them towards land, as opposed to the westward, oceanic mean track of Eastern Pacific hurricanes.[51] Thirteen of the storms made landfall while at Category 5 intensity;[1] 2007 is the only year in which two storms made landfall at this intensity.[1]

Many of these systems made landfall shortly after weakening from a Category 5. This weakening can be caused by dry air near land, shallower waters due to shelving, interaction with land, or cooler waters near shore.[38] In southern Florida, the return period for a Category 5 hurricane is roughly once every 50 years.[52]

The following table lists these hurricanes by landfall intensity.

Name Year Category 5 Category 4 Category 3 Category 2 Category 1 Tropical storm Tropical depression References
"Cuba" 1924 Cuba Florida The Bahamas [1][53]
"Okeechobee" 1928 Puerto Rico Guadeloupe, Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas, & Florida South Carolina
"Bahamas" 1932 The Bahamas
"Cuba" 1932 Little Cayman & Cuba The Bahamas Martinique
"Cuba–Brownsville" 1933 The Bahamas Cuba & Texas
"Tampico" 1933 Yucatán Peninsula Mainland Mexico
"Labor Day" 1935 Florida Keys Northwest Florida The Bahamas
"New England" 1938 New York & Connecticut
Carol 1953 Canada
Janet 1955 Yucatán Peninsula Mainland Mexico
Carla 1961 Texas
Hattie 1961 Belize Mexico
Beulah 1967 Texas Yucatán Peninsula
Camille 1969 Mississippi Cuba
Edith 1971 Nicaragua Louisiana Belize & Mexico
Anita 1977 Mexico
David 1979 Dominican Republic Dominica Florida Cuba, The Bahamas, & Georgia
Allen 1980 Texas
Gilbert 1988 Quintana Roo Jamaica, Tamaulipas [25]
Hugo 1989 Guadeloupe, Saint Croix, South Carolina Puerto Rico [27]
Andrew 1992 Eleuthera, Florida Berry Islands Louisiana [29]
Mitch 1998 Honduras Campeche, Florida [30]
Isabel 2003 North Carolina [34]
Ivan 2004 Alabama Louisiana [36]
Emily 2005 Quintana Roo Tamaulipas Grenada [37]
Katrina 2005 Louisiana, Mississippi Florida [38]
Rita 2005 Texas, Louisiana [39]
Wilma 2005 Cozumel, Quintana Roo Florida [40]
Dean 2007 Quintana Roo Veracruz [44]
Felix 2007 Nicaragua Grenada [46]
Matthew 2016 Haiti, Cuba, The Bahamas South Carolina [50]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]