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]

Statistics

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 hurricane has sustained winds greater than 156 miles per hour (251 km/h). "Sustained winds" refers to the average wind speed observed over one minute at 10 metres (32 ft 9.7 in) above ground, which is the standard height windspeed is measured at to avoid interference by obstacles and obstructions. Brief gusts in hurricanes are typically up to 50 percent higher than sustained winds.[2] Because a hurricane is (usually) a moving system, the wind field is asymmetric, with the strongest winds on the right side (in the Northern Hemisphere), relative to the direction of motion. The highest winds given in advisories are those from the right side.[3]

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).[4]

A reanalysis of weather data is ongoing by researchers who may upgrade or downgrade other Atlantic hurricanes currently listed at Categories 4 and 5.[5] For example, the 1825 Santa Ana hurricane is suspected to have reached Category 5 strength.[6] 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.[7]

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][8]

The minimum pressure of the more recent systems was measured by recon aircraft using dropsondes, or by determining it from satellite imagery using the Dvorak technique. For older storms, pressures are often incomplete, due to a lack of observations. Thus, sometimes the only measurement can be from when the hurricane was not a Category 5. Consequently, the lowest measurement is sometimes unrealistically high for a Category 5 hurricane. For example, the 1938 New England hurricane had its lowest recorded pressure recorded while it was a Category 3 storm.

These pressure values do not directly correlate with the maximum winds. This happens because the wind speed of a hurricane depends on both its size and how rapidly the pressure drops as the hurricane's center approaches. Thus, a hurricane in an environment of high ambient pressure will have stronger winds than a hurricane in an environment of low ambient pressure, even if they have identical central pressures.[9]

Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes

Hurricane Ivan as a Category 5
Hurricane Emily, the earliest Category 5 ever recorded within its own season
Storm
name
Season Dates as a
Category 5
Time as a
Category 5 (hours)
Peak one-minute
sustained winds
Pressure
mph km/h hPa inHg
"Cuba" 1924 October 19 12 165 270 910 26.87
San Felipe II-"Okeechobee" 1928 September 13–14 12 160 260 929 27.43
"Bahamas" 1932 September 5–6 24 160 260 921 27.20
"Cuba" 1932 November 5–8 78 175 280 915 27.02
"Cuba–Brownsville" 1933 August 30 12 160 260 930 27.46
"Tampico" 1933 September 21 12 160 260 929 27.43
"Labor Day" 1935 September 3 18 185 295 892 26.34
"New England" 1938 September 19–20 18 160 260 940 27.76
Carol 1953 September 3 12 160 260 929 27.43
Janet 1955 September 27–28 18 175 280 914 27.0
Carla 1961 September 11 18 175 280 931 27.49
Hattie 1961 October 30–31 18 160 260 920 27.17
Beulah 1967 September 20 18 160 260 923 27.26
Camille 1969 August 16–18† 30 175 280 900 26.58
Edith 1971 September 9 6 160 260 943 27.85
Anita 1977 September 2 12 175 280 926 27.34
David 1979 August 30–31 42 175 280 924 27.29
Allen 1980 August 5–9† 72 190 305 899 26.55
Gilbert 1988 September 13–14 24 185 295 888 26.22
Hugo 1989 September 15 6 160 260 918 27.11
Sources – North Atlantic hurricane database (1851-2015) [1] † – Attained Category 5 status more than once

Systems

Name Dates as a
Category 5
Duration
(hours)
Sustained
wind speeds
Pressure Areas affected Damage
(USD)
Deaths Refs
Carla September 3 – 16, 1961 Category 5 hurricane 175 mph (280 km/h) 931 hPa (27.49 inHg) Texas, Louisiana, Midwestern United States 46 $408 million [10][11]
Hattie October 27 – November 1, 1961 Category 5 hurricane 160 mph (260 km/h) 920 hPa (27.17 inHg) Central America 319 $60.3 million [12][13]
Beulah September 5 – 22, 1967 Category 5 hurricane 160 mph (260 km/h) 921 hPa (27.20 inHg) The Caribbean, Mexico, Texas 59 $208 million [14]
Camille August 14 – 22, 1969 Category 5 hurricane 175 mph (280 km/h) 900 hPa (26.58 inHg) Cuba, United States Gulf Coast 256 $1.42 billion [10][15][16]
Edith
Anita August 29 – September 4, 1977 Category 5 hurricane 175 mph (280 km/h) 926 hPa (27.34 inHg Mexico 10 Extensive [17]
David August 25 – September 8, 1979 Category 5 hurricane 175 mph (280 km/h) 924 hPa (27.29 inHg) The Caribbean, United States East coast 2,068 $1.54 billion [18][19]
Allen July 31 – August 11, 1980 Category 5 hurricane 190 mph (305 km/h) 899 hPa (26.55 inHg) The Caribbean, Yucatán Peninsula, Mexico, South Texas 269 $1.24 billion [18][20][21]
Gilbert September 8 – 19, 1988 Category 5 hurricane 185 mph (295 km/h) 888 hPa (26.22 inHg) Venezuela, Central America, Hispaniola, Mexico 318 $5 billion [22][23]
Hugo September 9 – 25, 1989 Category 5 hurricane 160 mph (260 km/h) 918 hPa (27.11 inHg) The Caribbean, United States East Coast 56 $8.5 billion [15][24]
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 [15][25]
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 [26][27][28]
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 [15][29]
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 [15][30][31]
Emily July 16, 2005 6 hours 160 mph (260 km/h) 929 hPa (27.44 inHg) Windward Islands, Jamaica, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, Texas 1.01 billion 17
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 [32]
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 [33]
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 [34][35][36][37]
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 [18][38]
Felix September 3–4, 2007 24 hours 175 mph (280 km/h) 929 hPa (27.43 inHg) Nicaragua, Honduras 130 $720 million [38][39][40][41]
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 [42]

Climatology

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][43]

September sees the most Category 5 hurricanes. This coincides with the climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which occurs in early September.[44] 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.[43] 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.[45]

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.[43] 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.

Listed by month

Landfalls

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.[46] 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.[47] In southern Florida, the return period for a Category 5 hurricane is roughly once every 50 years.[48]

The following table lists these hurricanes by landfall intensity.

Name Year Category 5 Category 4 Category 3 Category 2 Category 1 Tropical storm
"Cuba" 1924 Cuba Florida The Bahamas
"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 Yucatán Peninsula Jamaica & Mexico Martinique
Hugo 1989 Guadeloupe, Saint Croix,
and South Carolina
Puerto Rico

See also

References

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  3. ^ Landsea, Christopher W. "Tropical Cyclone FAQ Subject: D6) Why are the strongest winds in a hurricane typically on the right side of the storm?". Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2006-03-16. 
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External links

  • NHC web site
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