Hurricane Facts

WHAT IS A HURRICANE?

-- A hurricane is a fierce storm with strong winds rotating around a moving center of low atmospheric pressure.
-- Hurricanes rotate counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere.
-- Maximum wind speeds must be 73 miles per hour or more. Once winds go below 73 miles per hour, it is a tropical storm.
-- The word hurricane is regional -- applying to tropical cyclones in the north Atlantic Ocean, parts of the northeast Pacific Ocean and parts of the south Pacific Ocean.
-- A typhoon is the same thing occurring in the northwest Pacific Ocean.
-- Hurricane season lasts June 1 through November 30. It is rare, but hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic as early as March or as late as December.

WHERE DO THEY USUALLY HIT?

-- 36% of all U.S. hurricanes hit Florida.
-- 76% of Category 4 or higher hurricanes hit Florida or Texas.

HOW MANY CATEGORY FOUR AND FIVE STORMS HAVE HIT?

-- Since 1900, just three Category 5 storms have hit the continental U.S. There have been 15 Category 4 storms in that time, including Hurricane Charley.
-- The last time the U.S. was hit by two hurricanes of Category 4 or above in the same year was 1915. That year a Category 4 storm hit Galveston and another one hit New Orleans.
-- Category 5 storms since 1900 (in order of intensity): 1) Unnamed storm hit Florida Keys in 1935, killing 408 people, 2) Hurricane Camille hit Mississippi in 1969, and 3) Hurricane Andrew hit southeast Florida in 1992.

HURRICANE CATEGORIES

-- The categories are determined by the Saffir-Simpson Scale.

CATEGORY ONE: winds 74-95 mph (64-82 kt or 119-153 km/hr).
-- Storm surge 4-5 feet above normal.
-- No real damage to buildings or structures.
-- Shrubs, loose signs and unanchored mobile homes may sustain some damage. Coastal flooding is possible.

CATEGORY TWO: winds 96-110 mph (83-95 kt or 154-177 km/hr).
-- Storm surge 6-8 feet above normal.
-- Considerable damage to shrubbery and trees as well as to mobile homes, poorly constructed signs and piers.
-- Coastal and low-lying escape routes flood 2-4 hours before arrival of the hurricane center.
-- Example: Hurricane Bonnie hit the North Carolina coast in 1998.

CATEGORY THREE: winds 111-130 mph (96-113 kt or 178-209 km/hr).
-- Storm surge generally 9-12 ft above normal. Some damage to small residences.
-- Some large trees blown down. Some mobile homes and poorly constructed signs are destroyed.
-- Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures.
-- Terrain lower than 5 ft above sea level may be flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more.
-- Example: Hurricane Fran hit North Carolina in 1996.

CATEGORY FOUR: winds 131-155 mph (114-135 kt or 210-249 km/hr).
-- Storm surge generally 13-18 ft above normal.
-- Roofs destroyed on many buildings and residences, Shrubs, trees, and all signs are blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Extensive damage to doors and windows.
-- Terrain lower than 10 ft above sea level may be flooded.
-- Example: Hurricane Luis passed over the Leeward Islands in 1995.

CATEGORY FIVE: winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr).
-- Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal.
-- Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some buildings completely destroyed. All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down. Complete destruction of mobile homes.
-- Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline.
-- Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required.
-- Example: Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992.

(updated from the original 2004 article by the Associated Press.)

The 50 deadliest mainland United States tropical cyclones 1851-2010

RANK

HURRICANE

YEAR

CAT

DEATHS

COMMENTS

1

TX (Galveston)

1900

4

8000-12,000

 

2

FL (SE/Lake Okeechobee)

1928

4

2500-3000

Same storm as #13 ADDENDUM

3

KATRINA (LA,MS,AL,FL,GA)

2005

3

1500

Deaths directly attributed

4

LA (Cheniere Caminanda)

1893

4

1100-1400

2000 including offshore deaths
August

5

SC/GA (Sea Islands)

1893

3

1000-2000

 

6

GA/SC

1881

2

700

 

7

AUDREY (SW LA/N TX)

1957

4

>416

 

8

FL (Keys)

1935

5

408

 

9

LA (Last Island)

1856

4

400

With offshore deaths total is ~600

10

FL (Miami)/MS/AL/Pensacola

1926

4

372

 

11

LA (Grand Isle)

1909

3

350

 

12

FL (Keys)/S TX

1919

4

287

With offshore deaths total is ~600

13

LA (New Orleans)

1915

4

275

 

14

TX (Galveston)

1915

4

275

 

15

New England

1938

3

256

With offshore deaths total is ~600

16

CAMILLE (MS/SE LA/VA)

1969

5

256

 

17

DIANE (NE U.S.)

1955

1

184

 

18

GA, SC, NC

1898

4

179

 

19

TX

1875

3

176

 

20

SE FL

1906

3

164

 

21

TX (Indianola)

1886

4

150

 

22

MS/AL/Pensacola

1906

2

134

 

23

FL, GA, SC

1896

3

130

 

24

AGNES (FL/NE U.S.)

1972

1

≤122

 

25

HAZEL (SC/NC)

1954

4

95

 

26

BETSY (SE FL/SE LA)

1965

3

75

 

27

Northeast U.S.

1944

3

64

Total 390 with offshore deaths

28

CAROL (NE U.S.)

1954

3

60

 

29

FLOYD (Mid Atlantic & NE U.S.)

1999

2

56

 

30

NC

1883

2

53

 

31

SE FL/SE LA/MS

1947

4

51

 

32

NC, SC

1899

3

≥50

Same storm as #2 in ADDENDUM

32

GA/SC/NC

1940

2

50

 

32

DONNA (FL/Eastern U.S.)

1960

4

50

 

35

LA

1860

2

≥47

 

36

NC, VA

1879

3

≥46

Could include offshore deaths

37

CARLA (N & Central TX)

1961

4

46

 

38

TX (Velasco)

1909

3

41

 

39

ALLISON (SE TX)

2001

TS

41

 

40

Mid-Atlantic

1889

unk

≥40

Could include offshore deaths
Storm remained offshore

40

TX (Freeport)

1932

4

40

 

40

S TX

1933

3

40

 

43

HILDA (LA)

1964

3

38

 

44

IKE (TX, LA)

2008

2

34

 

44

SW LA

1918

3

34

 

46

SW FL

1910

3

30

 

47

ALBERTO (NW FL, GA, AL)

1994

TS

30

 

48

SC, FL

1893

3

28

Mid-October

49

New England

1878

2

≥27

 

49

Texas

1886

2

≥27

 

ADDENDUM
(Not Atlantic/Gulf Coast)

2

Puerto Rico

1899

3

3369

Same storm as #32

5

P.R. USVI

1867

3

≤811

Could include offshore deaths

5

Puerto Rico

1852

1

≤800

Total possibly from 2 storms

13

Puerto Rico (San Felipe)

1928

5

312

Same storm as #2

17

USVI, Puerto Rico

1932

2

225

 

25

DONNA (St. Thomas, VI)

1960

4

107

 

25

Puerto Rico

1888

1

≥100

 

37

Southern California

1939

TS

45

 

37

ELOISE(Puerto Rico)

1975

TS

44

 

47

USVI

1871

3

≥27

 

 

The 30 costliest mainland United States tropical cyclones 1900-2010
Unadjusted dollar amounts

RANK

HURRICANE

YEAR

CATEGORY

DAMAGE (U.S.)

1

KATRINA (SE FL/LA)

2005

3

$81,000,000,000

2

ANDREW (SE FL/SE LA)

1992

5

$26,500,000,000

3

IKE (E TX/LA)

2008

2

$22,000,000,000

4

WILMA (S FL)

2005

3

$20,600,000,000

5

CHARLEY (SW FL)

2004

4

$15,000,000,000

6

IVAN (AL/NW FL)

2004

3

$14,200,000,000

7

RITA (N TX/W LA)

2005

3

$10,000,000,000

8

FRANCES (FL)

2004

2

$8,900,000,000

9

HUGO (SC)

1989

4

$7,000,000,000

10

JEANNE (FL)

2004

3

$6,900,000,000

11

ALLISON (N TX)

2001

TS

$5,000,000,000

12

FLOYD (Mid-Atlantic & NE U.S.)

1999

2

$4,500,000,000

13

ISABEL (Mid-Atlantic)

2003

2

$3,370,000,000

14

FRAN (NC)

1996

3

$3,200,000,000

15

OPAL (NW FL/AL)

1995

3

$3,000,000,000

16

FREDERIC (AL/MS)

1979

3

$2,300,000,000

17

DENNIS (NW FL)

2005

1

$2,200,000,000

18

AGNES (FL/NE U.S.)

1972

1

$2,100,000,000

19

ALICIA (N TX)

1983

3

$2,000,000,000

20

OPHELIA (NC)

2005

1

$1,600,000,000

21

BOB (NC, NE U.S)

1991

2

$1,500,000,000

21

JUAN (LA)

1985

1

$1,500,000,000

23

CAMILLE (MS/SE LA/VA)

1969

5

$1,420,700,000

24

BETSY (SE FL/SE LA)

1965

3

$1,420,500,000

25

ELENA (MS/AL/NW FL)

1985

3

$1,250,000,000

26

GEORGES (FL Keys, MS, AL)

1998

2

$1,155,000,000

27

GLORIA (Eastern U.S.)

1985

3

$900,000,000

28

LILI (SC LA)

2002

1

$860,000,000

29

DIANE (NE U.S.)

1955

1

$831,700,000

30

BONNIE (NC, VA)

1998

2

$720,000,000

ADDENDUM
(Rank is independent of other events in group)

20

GEORGES (USVI,PR)

1998

3

$1,800,000,000

20

INIKI (Kauai, HI)

1992

4

$1,800,000,000

21

MARILYN (USVI, PR)

1995

2

$1,500,000,000

27

HUGO (USVI, PR)

1989

4

$1,000,000,000

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