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A Hurricane Season of Panic

Updated on September 6, 2017
Hurricane Irma as a category 5 hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean.
Hurricane Irma as a category 5 hurricane in the Eastern Caribbean. | Source

If Hurricane Irma strikes Florida as a category 5 storm, it will be only the 4th category 5 to hit the United States and the 3rd to strike Florida, specifically South Florida. The others were:

  • The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 which hit the Florida Keys with 185 mph winds. It is the strongest US-landfalling hurricane to date and the 3rd most intense with a barometric pressure of 892 mb. An estimated 228 people lost their lives.
  • Hurricane Camille in 1969 hit Waveland, Mississippi packing 172 mph winds and the 5th lowest pressure at 900 mb (tied with Gilbert in 1988). 259 people lost their lives in the US – 143 along the Gulf coast and 153 in Virginia from catastrophic flooding.
  • Hurricane Andrew struck Florida City south of Miami in 1992, killing 44 people in Florida and 65 total. It had winds of 165 mph though this didn’t become official until 2002 when Andrew was upgraded from a category 4 to a category 5. It’s the third strongest storm to ever make landfall in the US, the 5th costliest, and left wide-spread destruction despite being a small and fast-moving storm. Florida building codes were changed after Andrew in response to the wide-spread destruction.

Learn more about the Strongest Hurricane in US History

Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane (Florida Quincentennial Books)
Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane (Florida Quincentennial Books)

Few people think back to a time when hurricane forecasting was in its infancy and Florida was still struck by major hurricanes. Category 5 takes one back to the hurricane and its aftermath including the incredible stories of survivors.

 
Hurricane Charley near peak intensity in 2004
Hurricane Charley near peak intensity in 2004 | Source

With social media hype and panic, it’s easy to forget that this hurricane season isn’t necessarily any different than others, or even the worst. So far. With 3 months to go in the season, there’s still time to have a record-breaking season. For a little perspective, think back to 2004 and 2005.

  • The 2004 hurricane season brought 4 hurricanes, 3 of them major, to Florida, back to back to back…to back. Charley hit Cayo Costa, near Port Charlotte, as a Category 4 on August 13th. September brought the other three storms. Frances struck Hutchinson Island on September 4th as a category 2. Less than two weeks later, Ivan made landfall in Gulf Shores, Alabama on September 16th, placing Florida’s panhandle on the worst side of the storm. Jeanne then hit Hutchinson Island, 3 weeks after Frances, on September 26th as a category 3.
  • The 2005 season was truly record-breaking. It was the first time there were so many named that storms that the National Hurricane Center had to use Greek letters to name hurricanes. 2005 brought a total of 7 storms to Florida, 4 hurricanes, 2 of them major. Hurricane Dennis made landfall as a category 3 near Navarre Beach on the panhandle on July 10th, less than a year after Hurricane Ivan devastated the area. Before demolishing New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina hit Florida around the Miami-Dade/Broward county line as a category 1 on August 25th. Hurricane Ophelia skimmed Florida on September 12th, followed 8 days later by category 1 Hurricane Rita which skimmed the Florida Keys. The season for Floridians ended with category 3 Hurricane Wilma which struck Cape Romana, south of Naples, on October 24th.

Damage in Delray Beach after the 1947 hurricane which struck Fort Lauderdale
Damage in Delray Beach after the 1947 hurricane which struck Fort Lauderdale | Source

Looking further back, the 1940s were particularly rough as the state was hammered by 7 major hurricanes in as many years. This tough decade began with the Florida-Cuba unnamed hurricane of 1944 which hit the Dry Tortugas as a category 3 on October 18th. In 1945, the unnamed Homestead hurricane made landfall on September 15th as a category 4 first in north Key Largo and then again in Florida City. A category 4 unnamed hurricane hit Fort Lauderdale (Port Everglades) on September 17th, 1947. Another category 4 unnamed hurricane hit the Florida Keys on September 21st, 1948 and made a second landfall on the Gulf coast near Chokoloskee, Florida. 1949 brought yet another category 4 hurricane, this one landing near Lake Worth on August 26th. In 1950, two major hurricanes hit Florida. The first was Hurricane Easy which devastated Cedar Key on September 5th as a category 3. The second, Hurricane King, hit Miami as a category 4.

Hurricane Andrew Straight from the Meteorologist Who Pulled Miami Through It

My Hurricane Andrew Story: The story behind the preparation, the terror, the resilience, and the renowned TV coverage of the Great Hurricane of 1992.
My Hurricane Andrew Story: The story behind the preparation, the terror, the resilience, and the renowned TV coverage of the Great Hurricane of 1992.

Award-winning meteorologist, Brian Norcross, remembers Hurricane Andrew and the lessons it taught South Florida.

 

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    • cvanthul profile imageAUTHOR

      Cristina Vanthul 

      12 months ago from Florida

      Thanks, FlourishAnyway. The track has changed since I wrote this so more people are more directly impacted. It's not looking good for the little towns around the Everglades. I hope those people have been to seek shelter.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      12 months ago from USA

      This was a good recap and so timely. I'm in Virginia and the last hurricane we rod out that did any damage here was in 2005, I think. Neighbors around me had fallen trees on their homes and cars and all kinds of damage to their structures but we were spared. Oddly, we had a huge dead tree in our yard that was just begging to be knocked down but it stood throughout the storm. Sometimes you get lucky. Everyone who is in the path of Irma is in my thoughts. Take your pets!

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