Atmosphere And Weather

Strongest Hurricanes in Recorded History



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Hurricanes are formed over warm tropical ocean waters. Scientists are still unsure as to the how or the why hurricanes form. What they do know is that a steady, consistent wind is needed during the forming process and the water temperature must be at least 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hurricanes start out as a tropical disturbance that gradually turns into a tropical storm once the winds reach 74mph. If the winds measure any higher, the tropical storm becomes a hurricane.

Hurricanes are classified into 5 different categories. A Category 1 storm has winds that range from 74-95mph. Category 2 storms range from 96-110mph. Category 3s range from 111-130mph. Category 4s range from 131-155mph. Anything above 155mph is classified as a Category 5 hurricane. Over the years, scientists have learned to be able to predict the path of these storms with a high (but not perfect) degree of accuracy, saving many lives in the process.

A storm of the magnitude of a hurricane once it reaches land wreaks havoc in 3 different ways. First of all, the high winds can blow down trees and telephone poles, tear the roofs off of homes, and break windows. Secondly, the heavy rains associated with these storms can cause a considerable amount of flooding. Lastly, and far more damaging is the storm surge which is a rise in the sea level higher than the normal tide level. Storm surges can travel into low-lying areas putting them several feet under water.

In the U.S., hurricanes have either traveled up the eastern seaboard, or have entered into the Gulf of Mexico striking the southern coast.

In recorded history, many of these storms have obtained a certain notoriety.

In 1900, a category 4 hurricane devastated Galveston, Texas causing an estimated 8,000 deaths. The storm surge reached as high as 15 feet which effectively put the whole of Galveston Island under water. This was the worst weather disaster in the history of the United States.

In 1926, what would become known as the Great Miami Hurricane had the largest sustained winds ever recorded up to that time. Every building in downtown Miami was damaged by the 15 foot storm surge. Many casualties were sustained by residents unfamiliar with hurricanes when they ventured outside when the eye of the storm passed over. Thinking that the storm itself was over, they became trapped when the eastern half of the hurricane made its appearance soon after.

In September, 1938 a hurricane hit New England causing up to 800 deaths and much destruction. This hurricane became particularly notable when it was feared that actress Katherine Hepburn was among the dead. She narrowly escaped with her life before her Fenwick, Connecticut home was washed away.

The most destructive hurricane ever to strike the U.S. was Katrina in August, 2005. Katrina was not as directly responsible for as many deaths as the Galveston hurricane, but the property damage and economic loss was the highest in recorded history. This hurricane also exposed the holes in America’s emergency response system that had been before that point so highly touted.

There were many other hurricanes over the years, such as Andrew, Camille, Hugo, and Frances. And there will be more. As long as people choose to live in coastal areas, there will be further damage, and regrettably loss of life, much of which can be reduced by early warning and effective emergency response.

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ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/what-are-hurricanes-k4.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.livescience.com/7568-greatest-hurricanes.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.historykb.com/Uwe/Forum.aspx/what-if/12225/Katherine-Hepburn-killed-in-September-21-1938-New-England-hurricane
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.katrina.noaa.gov/