Hurricane Ian has already hit the coast of Florida this week, with winds packing over 155 miles per hour. After the hurricane made landfall in Cuba, Ian intensified, and weather bureaus predicted that it was well on its way to becoming a Category 5 hurricane, a category that the United States rarely raises in its history.
Over the course of US history, there have been only a recorded four hurricanes that were categorized under the 5th level. According to weather experts, Category 5 hurricanes are storms with maximum sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or more. Therefore, Hurricane Ian was just a shy away from becoming one.
Four Category 5 hurricanes have hit the US; three of them hit Florida and one in Mississippi.
How are hurricanes categorized
In the US, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale categorizes the storms developing within the country’s vicinity. The scale is also used to identify the possible extent of damage that a hurricane will inflict on the regions it will hit.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Category 5 storms: “Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
While Category 5 hurricanes are the strongest, there are instances when lower category storms inflict more damage. For instance, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which was only Category 3, and Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017.
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Here are four Category 5 storms in the US:
Labor Day Hurricane in 1935
On September 2, 1935, the Labor Day Hurricane wreaked havoc on the Florida Keys, bringing winds of up to 185 miles per hour. It is considered the strongest storm to ever land in the United States. The Labor Day Hurricane caused innumerable damage to properties and took away the lives of 409 individuals.
According to the Hurricanes: Science and Society, “practically all losses from the hurricane were suffered in Florida, with most occurring in the Florida Keys. A swath of destruction 40 [miles] wide occurred across the Keys, from just south of Key Largo to just north of Marathon.”
“Most manmade structures were destroyed by the hurricane’s Category 5 winds, which gusted at times to over 200 mph, and the complete inundation of the islands by a 15-20 ft storm surge.”
Hurricane Camille (1969)
Packing a maximum sustained wind of more than 170 miles per hour, Hurricane Camille is considered the second strongest storm to hit the US. It hit Mississippi on August 17, 1969, and killed over 250 people.
“The impacts of Hurricane Camille were felt across much of the southeast U.S., especially southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama. Most of the inland damage was a result of fallen trees and power lines, while damage on the immediate coast was caused by both wind and storm surges.
“Communities saw homes and buildings damaged or destroyed, fallen trees, and flooded roads,” said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
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Hurricane Andrew (1992)
South Miami-Dade County saw the destruction of Hurricane Andrew, bringing winds of 165 miles per hour.
“Hurricane Andrew destroyed more than 50,000 homes and caused an estimated $26 billion in damage, making it at the time the most expensive natural disaster in the United States history, not to be surpassed until Hurricane Katrina 13 years later,” said NOOA.
Hurricane Michael (2018)
With over 161 miles per hour, Hurricane Michael is the latest storm added to the rare list of Category 5 hurricanes to hit the country.
It had maximum sustained winds of 161 miles per hour and hit the Florida Panhandle last October 10, 2018.
“Wind and storm surge caused catastrophic damage, particularly in the Panama City Beach and Mexico Beach areas. Eight direct fatalities were reported: seven in Florida and one in Georgia. In addition, 43 indirect deaths were attributed to the storm.” the National Weather Service said.
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