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Category 5 is as powerful as a hurricane can get under the Saffir-Simpson scale. These monster storms pack wind speeds of 157 miles per hour or more. Since 1924, there have been 35 documented hurricanes in the North Atlantic that reached this level—and of those, five have hit the United States at Category 5 strength.
While category 5 storms clearly present a severe threat, wind speed isn’t the only factor that makes a hurricane destructive. Storm surges often cause the most damage. So a hurricane’s 1 to 5 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale doesn’t neatly line up with how dangerous it is.
Hurricane Katrina—considered among the worst storms in U.S. history—did reach Category 5 status in August 2005, but it downgraded to Category 3 by the time it made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi. The deadliest recorded hurricane to hit the U.S. was a Category 4 when it hit Galveston, Texas in September 1900 and killed anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 people.
Although the Saffir-Simpson categories aren’t perfect indicators of storm severity, the U.S. National Hurricane Center adopted them in the early 1970s to try to offer the public an idea of how they should respond to an incoming storm. Here’s a list of what happened each time the U.S. was hit by a hurricane at Category 5.
1928: The San Felipe II Hurricane Hits Puerto Rico
On September 13, 1928, a hurricane slammed into the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, bringing heavy rainfall and high-speed winds that lasted for 18 hours. The impact killed 300 people, destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes and ruined farmers’ coffee crops. Because the storm was the second recorded hurricane to hit Puerto Rico on St. Philip’s feast day, it became known as the San Felipe II Hurricane (in Florida, where the storm later made landfall as a Category 4, it is known as the Okeechobee Hurricane).
At the time, meteorologists hadn’t yet developed a standard classification system for hurricanes. But San Felipe II’s wind speeds of 160 miles per hour make it a Category 5 storm. The San Felipe II was the most destructive recorded hurricane in Puerto Rican history until Hurricane Maria made landfall in 2017, killing nearly 3,000 people.
1935: The Labor Day Hurricane Hits the Florida Keys
The first recorded hurricane 5 to hit the continental U.S. landed on Labor Day in 1935. It blew through the upper Florida Keys with winds speeds up to 200 miles per hour and killed over 400 people. At least 250 of the people killed were World War I veterans who’d come to the Keys through a Federal Emergency Relief Administration project for unemployed veterans during the Great Depression.
At the time, the veterans were building bridges and roads to help revitalize the Florida Keys as a tourist destination. On the evening of September 2, Labor Day, U.S. officials sent a rescue train down to them, but it was too late. The storm swept the train off its tracks, killing many of the veterans who’d already boarded in the process.
1969: Hurricane Camille Hits Louisiana and Mississippi
In 1953, the United States began naming hurricanes exclusively after women. One of these was Hurricane Camille, a storm that landed along the Mississippi Gulf Coast late in the evening of August 17, 1969. We don’t actually know the storm’s maximum sustained winds, since it “destroyed all the wind-recording instruments in the landfall area,” according to the National Weather Service. However, the service estimates wind speeds reached 175 miles per hour along the coast.
The Category 5 hurricane killed 143 people on the Gulf Coast. But even after its wind speeds dropped below hurricane-level intensity, it continued to be deadly as it moved north across the country. In Virginia and West Virginia, flash flooding from the storm killed 113 people.
1992: Hurricane Andrew Hits Florida
After the U.S. started giving hurricanes women’s names in 1953, male meterologists and weathermen began describing dangerous hurricanes as “teasing” or “flirting” with a coastline. Feminists like Roxcy Bolton campaigned to stop associating women with natural disasters, and in 1979 the U.S. started naming hurricanes after men too, with Hurricane Bob. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew became the first of these male-named hurricanes to reach Category 5 in the U.S.
Once again, the Category 5’s target was Florida. It made landfall in southern Florida on August 24, 1992, and reached sustained wind speeds of 165 miles per hour. The storm killed 61 people, and its destruction or damage to buildings displaced another 250,000.
2018: Hurricane Michael Hits Florida
Hurricane Michael had maximum sustained wind speeds of 160 miles per hour when it made landfall in Florida Panhandle in October 2018. It killed 16 people and was one of eight hurricanes in the North Atlantic that year—including Hurricane Florence, which killed 54 people.
Scientists warn that climate change may increase the severity of storms, meaning that storms in the North Atlantic will become more likely to turn into hurricanes as climate change continues.
READ MORE: The Deadliest Disasters in U.S. History
How Hurricanes Have Shaped the Course of U.S. History
Bryan Norcross remembers the moment well. It was 3:30 a.m. on August 24, 1992, and the meteorologist was in the midst of a 23-hour broadcast marathon as Hurricane Andrew, having reached Category 5 strength, bore down on Miami. He suggested to his crew that they move from the studio into an adjacent storage room, which was better protected from the fierce winds and slashing rains that were pummeling WTVJ-TV.
It was a wakeup call for many people who were watching on TV or listening on the radio. “Thousands of people over the years told me that was the moment they realized I was deadly serious,” Norcross recalls. “I had already told people to get ready to get under a mattress in a closet when the worst of it came in. That’s when many did, and four hours later they moved the mattress and could see the sky.”
Andrew was the most destructive hurricane to strike Florida, causing more than $25 billion in damage—about $46 billion today—with 44 deaths. Tens of thousands of homes, businesses and other structures were leveled as sustained winds of 165 miles per hour tore through the region. The storm would have a lasting influence.
“Hurricane Andrew is the storm that changed how we deal with hurricanes in the United States,” says Norcross, who now is a senior hurricane specialist at The Weather Channel. “The emergency management system was completely reworked. The hurricane building codes we use today came out of this storm. Also, it was the best-measured hurricane at the time. So much of what we know today about strong hurricanes is the result of Hurricane Andrew. It was a seminal storm in so many ways.”
The history of Atlantic hurricanes is inextricably linked with the history of this country, from its colonial founding through independence and into modern times. A new book coming out later this summer, A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes by bestselling author Eric Jay Dolin, delves into the storms that shaped our society in ways we may not realize.
“I love the long arc of American history and love using it as a backbone to tell a broader story,” Dolin tells Smithsonian. “Hurricanes have determined some of the things that have happened in our country, including cultural issues, politics and the way society deals with concerns it faces: the women’s rights movement, racism, the evolution of television and more.
A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America's Hurricanes
With A Furious Sky, best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin tells the history of America itself through its five-hundred-year battle with the fury of hurricanes.
Dolin begins more than 500 years ago with the hurricane of 1502. This massive storm in the Caribbean sank 24 ships of Christopher Columbus’ fleet off Hispaniola , the island shared today by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The explorer, who had seen the hurricane approaching while at sea, warned residents of the Spanish settlement of the tempest and earned the distinction of becoming the first European to issue a weather forecast in the New World. The hurricane was also a harbinger of what was to come for those early colonies.
A century later, in 1609, a powerful hurricane nearly caused the collapse of England’s first permanent settlement in Jamestown, Virginia. Founded two years earlier, the colony was beset with problems from the start and relied heavily on aid from England. During the storm, a supply ship foundered and sank at Bermuda. By the time relief ships reached Jamestown, the colonists were near starvation.
“…Given the sorry state of the remaining colonists, the food on board the Deliverance and Patience was critical,” Dolin writes. “‘If God had not sent Sir Thomas Gates from the Bermudas,’ a contemporary pamphlet published in London opined, ‘within four days’ those colonists would have all perished.”
The meager rations that arrived enabled the settlement to barely survive until other supply ships arrived. One of the survivors, William Strachey, wrote about his ordeal, which William Shakespeare took as inspiration for the 1610 play The Tempest.
Farther up north, the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 clobbered the English settlements of Plymouth and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. This storm felled hundreds of thousands of trees, destroyed numerous houses, sank ships and killed scores of people, including eight Wampanaog tribespeople drowned by the 14-foot storm surge. A man named Stephen Hopkins, who’d been on the supply ship that sank in Bermuda in 1609 and later an original passenger on the Mayflower, was serendipitously in Plymouth for this storm.
Joseph Henry’s weather map was probably the first one in the country. (Smithsonian Institution Archives)
Dolin also cites a pair of storms that even helped the United States gain its independence. In 1780, two major hurricanes blasted through the Caribbean islands within weeks of each other, with the second, known as the Great Hurricane of 1780, killing an estimated 17,000 people. “[This] contributed to the French decision to get their ships out of the Caribbean the following hurricane season,” Dolin says, “which coincided with them sailing north and taking part in the Battle of Yorktown .”
As the nation’s population expanded, particularly along the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf, scientists and planners sought to learn more about predicting the paths of these super-storms and defend our cities against them. The first “real-time” weather map was developed by Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Though not used specifically to track hurricanes at first, in 1856 it used new technology to show the movement of storms across the eastern half of the United States with current data provided by telegraph operators.
“Joseph Henry helped shape the world we know when he laid the foundation of a national weather service shortly after becoming the Smithsonian’s first Secretary,” wrote Frank Rives Millikan, a historian with the Joseph Henry Papers Project. “…When Henry came to the Smithsonian, one of his first priorities was to set up a meteorological program. In 1847, while outlining his plan for the new institution, Henry called for ‘a system of extended meteorological observations for solving the problem of American storms.’”
A hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900 killed thousands. (Universal History Archive / Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
No matter the plans set out, the science of the time couldn’t warn communities with enough time to avoid the big one, even as local communities may have had the knowledge at their behest. Along the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, locals could tell when a big blow was coming if the crawfish started moving inland. But government officials were still left unprepared when the giant Galveston Hurricane of 1900 sent a huge storm surge that swept over a barrier island. The area was packed with tourists for the summer season and the hurricane killed 6,000 people, though some estimates place the death toll even higher. The death and destruction inspired the building of a nearly 18,000-foot-long cement seawall, one of the first of its kind.
Dolin wonders if this catastrophe along the Texas coast might have been avoided or at least minimized if officials in this country had been more aware of what others were saying about the development of these storms in the Gulf of Mexico.
“A priest named Benito Viñes in Cuba had been an expert predictor of hurricanes during the late 1800s and actually coordinated his efforts with the United States,” he says. “But because the Americans looked down with condescension on Cubans and their science, they didn’t pay attention to some of the signs that led up to the hurricane in Galveston.”
The most powerful storm– with wind speeds of 185 miles per hour —to make landfall in the U.S. was the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 . The Category 5 storm killed hundreds of World War I veterans on the Florida Keys who had been moved there following the Bonus Army March on Washington, D.C. three years earlier. Novelist Ernest Hemingway, who helped with recovery efforts, wrote a blistering article titled “Who Murdered the Vets” critical of the government, writing “… wealthy people, yachtsmen, fishermen such as President Hoover and Presidents Roosevelt, do not come to the Florida Keys in hurricane months. There is a known danger to property. But veterans, especially the bonus-marching variety of veterans, are not property. They are only human beings unsuccessful human beings, and all they have to lose is their lives.”
More recently, more and more powerful storms have left their mark. Hurricane Sandy was a late-season arrival in 2012 that barreled up the East Coast and slammed the northeastern United States. Though only a Category 1 upon landfall, the massive “superstorm” fooled many forecasters since it took an unexpected track toward land instead of heading out to sea. Sandy caused $65 billion in damage and flooded many states, including highly populated areas in New Jersey and New York. Power outages shut down the New York Stock Exchange for two days, only the second time in history that weather had caused such a disruption in trading (the first was the Great Blizzard of 1888).
The advent of radar and satellites enabled meteorologists to track hurricanes with greater accuracy and reliability. In addition, modern computers that could predict the paths of storms have greatly enhanced forecasts to the point where weather experts can be reasonably sure of where they are going as much as five days out.
That ability was bore fruit in 2017, when three major hurricanes hit the nation in less than a month as Harvey, Irma and Maria laid waste to coastlines across the South and the Caribbean, particularly Puerto Rico. Damage caused by these devastating storms cost hundreds of billions of dollars with thousands killed. But it could have been worse.
“The only good news to come out of this bruising hurricane season was that the National Hurricane Center’s track forecasts were the most accurate they had ever produced,” Dolin writes. “So, people at least had a good idea of where and when the hurricanes would strike.”
Waves break in front of a destroyed amusement park wrecked by Superstorm Sandy on October 31, 2012 in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. (Mario Tama / Getty Images)
Dolin argues that storms like these will increase in frequency and severity as climate change continues to cause the oceans to warm. “My book does not end on a high note,” he says. “We are in for a rough ride here on out. There is a growing scientific consensus that hurricanes in the future are going to be stronger and probably wetter than hurricanes of the past.”
Norcross, the TV weather forecaster who talked South Florida through Hurricane Andrew, sees an increase in serious storms this year and into the future. He says the average annual number of hurricanes over the past three decades was 12. Today, the figure has crept up to 14 or 15 per year. The odds now favor at least one storm of Category 3 or higher striking the U.S. each season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts 2020 will spawn 19 named storms with as many as six major hurricanes.
Dolin says policymakers must not only get serious about reducing carbon emissions but also stop new development along shorelines and enforce tougher construction standards in coastal areas against the changes that are already coming.
“We have to have some humility about our place in the fabric of life and the world,” Dolin says. “Mother Nature is in charge. It is our responsibility to take actions that are wise and protect us as much as possible. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and assume the problem is going away – because it’s not.”
About David Kindy
David Kindy is a journalist, freelance writer and book reviewer who lives in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He writes about history, culture and other topics for Air & Space, Military History, World War II, Vietnam, Aviation History, Providence Journal and other publications and websites.
Tropical Storms & Hurricanes: History at FSU
The most recent hurricane (not including tropical storms) to directly impact the Tallahassee area was Hurricane Michael on October 10-11, 2018. The previous "hurricane of reference" that many people associate with is Hurricane Hermine in 2016. Additionally, the region has been hit by many hurricanes over the last 170+ years, including four major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricanes. Even hurricanes that make landfall in places such as Pensacola, Panama City, among other places, can be felt here (e.g. Dennis '05, Ivan '04, Opal '95, Michael '18).
Statistically, hurricanes directly impact Tallahassee on average once every eight years (22 hurricanes in the last 171 years). However, we know from historical hurricane climatology that the frequency of storms comes in multi-decade cycles where there will be long stretches between active periods of numerous storms.
Tropical storms conditions are much more common than hurricanes conditions for our part of the state. Tropical storms strike on average once every 3.5 years (50 tropical storms in 171 years). The last tropical storm to directly impact Florida State University was Tropical Storm Debby in 2012.
The table below summarizes the tropical cyclone activity to have been felt on the Main Campus of Florida State University since Hurricane Kate in 1985, plus a few extra historical hurricanes.
3.56 (Tallahassee Mall area)
What was life like after Hurricane Kate hit Tallahassee and FSU in 1985?
As can be seen by the table above, Hurricane Kate in 1985 was the most significant tropical cyclone hit for Tallahassee and Florida State University in recent history. It was barely a hurricane when it passed through the capital city, with sustained winds of 53 miles per hour and hurricane wind gusts to 87 miles per hour. That is only a Category 1 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. However, according to a government report on the storm, "Sporadic heavy wind damage throughout Gadsden and Leon County provided evidence of widespread micro-bursts or down-bursts of localized higher wind gusts which may have reached 100 mph." Regardless, the impacts of Kate were widespread in Tallahassee.
While Category 1 hurricane winds did not cause major direct structural damage, the storm tore through the city's popular tree canopy. Simply put, Tallahassee has a lot of trees. Many of those trees, particularly tall pines, came crashing down everywhere. When they fell, they landed on homes, cars, roadways, and power lines. For a few days, it was nearly impossible to drive around anywhere with so many large trees blocking the roads.
The damage to the electrical infrastructure was equally widespread. Most people were without power for about 5 days, and there were others who did not see their service returned for 2-3 weeks.
Worst Hurricanes by Death Toll
43. Here is a list highlighting the 5 worst US-based hurricanes in terms of the death toll:
|The Great Galveston Hurricane in Texas (1900)||This was a category 4 hurricane with a death toll of approximately 8,000 people thousands of people were injured as well.|
|The Lake Okeechobee Hurricane in Florida (1928)||This category 4 storm had a death toll of approximately 2,500, making it the most severe last hurricane in Florida.|
|The Katrina Hurricane in LA/FL/AL/GA/MS (2005)||A category 5 hurricane responsible for over 1,200 deaths and thousands of injuries.|
|The Cheniere Caminada Hurricane (1893)||This category 4 hurricane reportedly caused between 1100–2000 deaths.|
|The Sea Islands Hurricane (1893)||This particular storm is responsible for some 1000–2000 deaths.|
In the case of hurricanes that occurred more than a century ago, the death toll numbers are just rough approximations seeing how record keeping was not as advanced as it is today — hence why you should always take them with a grain of salt.
Source: Wunder Ground
History of hurricanes in Texas, by the numbers
Hurricane Harvey is far from the first to potentially wreak havoc.
How hurricanes form, explained by Ginger Zee
-- Hurricane Harvey is set to bear down on Texas, and is expected to bring with it a massive storm surge, torrential rains and lashing winds, according to forecasters.
The damage the storm causes remains to be seen, but the Lone Star State is no stranger to powerful tempests.
Here are some important numbers and facts about the history of hurricanes in Texas, according to the National Weather Service.
The number of hurricanes to hit Texas since the 1850s: at least 64
When was the last major hurricane that was Category 3 or stronger, to hit Texas: Hurricane Bret in 1999
When was the most recent hurricane of any sizable strength to hit Texas: Hurricane Ike in 2008
What month is the most frequent time for hurricanes in Texas: August, though they have hit anytime between June 2 and Nov. 5
How many people who died in the deadliest hurricane to have hit Texas, which happened in September 1900 in Galveston: 8,000 people
What was the deadliest hurricane to hit Texas in the past 50 years: Hurricane Beulah that made landfall in Brownsville in September 1967, when 15 people died
How often hurricanes hit any 50-mile stretch of Texas coastline: one time in about every 6 years
What is the average annual occurrence of a tropical storm or hurricane in Texas: 0.8, which the National Weather Service equates to three for every four years
When was the longest hurricane-free stretch of time in Texas: From October 1989 and August 1999
When was the earliest-recorded hurricane near Texas: The National Weather Service cites a deadly storm off Galveston Island in 1527, though the earliest known hurricane is dated back to 1590 when more than 1,000 people died on ships in the Gulf of Mexico
How many days between the end of Hurricane Katrina and the start of Hurricane Rita, which hit southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana: 22 days
3. Hurricane Katrina
/>The third deadliest hurricane is one that most American’s are familiar with – Hurricane Katrina. When the hurricane hit Miami, Florida, in 2005, it was labeled as a Category 5, but later turned into a Category 3 when reaching Louisiana. An estimated 1,200 lives were lost during this storm and the total cost in damages is approximately $108 billion. For this reason, Hurricane Katrina is also the costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Efforts are still being made to restore the community from the storm’s damages.
Hurricane Michael upgraded to a Category 5 at time of U.S. landfall
Scientists at NOAA&rsquos National Hurricane Center conducted a detailed post-storm analysis on all the data available for Hurricane Michael and have determined that the storm&rsquos estimated intensity at landfall was 140 knots (160 mph). This final wind intensity is a 5 knot (5 mph) increase over the operational estimate and makes Michael a category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale at the time of landfall on October 10, 2018, near Mexico Beach and Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Michael is the first hurricane to make landfall in the United States as a category 5 since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and only the fourth on record. The others are the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. Michael is also the strongest hurricane landfall on record in the Florida Panhandle and only the second known category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf coast.
The real-time operational intensity estimate was 135 knots (155 mph). The final best track intensity estimate of 140 knots (160 mph) was determined by a review of the available aircraft winds, surface winds, surface pressures, satellite intensity estimates and Doppler radar velocities &ndash including data and analyses that were not available in real time. The 5 knot (5 mph) increase in the estimated maximum sustained wind speed from the operational estimate is small and well within the normal range of uncertainty.
Category 5 winds were likely experienced over a very small area at and near the coast, and the change in estimated wind speeds is of little practical significance in terms of the impacts associated with the storm. Michael produced devastating winds and storm surge and was directly responsible for 16 deaths and about $25 billion in damage in the United States. Before hitting the United States, the cyclone brought hurricane-force winds to the western tip of Cuba when it was a category 2 Hurricane.
Along with wind speed, atmospheric pressure is a measure of storm intensity. In general, the lower a storm&rsquos central pressure, the higher the winds. Michael&rsquos central pressure of 919 millibars (mb) at landfall is the third lowest on record for a landfalling U. S. hurricane since reliable records began in 1900, trailing only the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 (892 mb) and Hurricane Camille of 1969 (900 mb).
#15: Hurricane Charley, 2004
Hurricane season may seem like just another phase of the year, but to coast-dwellers, it means huge storms are stirring in the Atlantic Ocean&mdashand some are worse than others. With a little help from our storm-chasing friends at The Weather Channel, we&rsquore counting down to the worst hurricane to hit the United States in recorded history.
The small-but-mighty Hurricane Charley played dirty, racking up nearly $20 billion in damages. After tearing through Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, the storm accelerated as it blew across the Florida Peninsula, sending 79 mph winds into Orlando and a tornado through the south side of Daytona Beach. And then it came back for seconds, making landfall in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, before eventually slowing down in southeast Virginia.
Record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season draws to an end
The extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is drawing to a close with a record-breaking 30 named storms and 11 landfalling storms in the continental United States. While the official hurricane season concludes on November 30, tropical storms may continue to develop past that day.
NOAA&rsquos seasonal hurricane outlooks accurately predicted a high likelihood of an above-normal season with a strong possibility of it being extremely active. In total, the 2020 season produced 30 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 14 became hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or greater), including seven major hurricanes (top winds of 111 mph or greater). This is the most storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.
&ldquoThroughout this relentless hurricane season, NOAA worked around-the-clock to provide critical data and reliable forecasts to our Nation&rsquos communities in the path of devastating storms,&rdquo said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. &ldquoThe services provided by NOAA, alongside our emergency management partners, undoubtedly helped save many lives and protect property.&rdquo
The 2020 season got off to an early and rapid pace with a record nine named storms from May through July, and then quickly exhausted the 21-name Atlantic list when Tropical Storm Wilfred formed on September 18. For only the second time in history, the Greek alphabet was used for the remainder of the season, extending through the 9th name in the list, Iota.
&ldquoThe 2020 Atlantic hurricane season ramped up quickly and broke records across the board,&rdquo said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D, acting NOAA administrator. &ldquoOur investments in research, forecast models, and computer technology allowed forecasters at the National Weather Service, and its National Hurricane Center, to issue forecasts with increasing accuracy, resulting in the advanced lead time needed to ensure that decision makers and communities were ready and responsive.&rdquo
This is the fifth consecutive year with an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 above-normal seasons out of the past 26. This increased hurricane activity is attributed to the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO) &mdash which began in 1995 &mdash and has favored more, stronger, and longer-lasting storms since that time. Such active eras for Atlantic hurricanes have historically lasted about 25 to 40 years. An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
&ldquoAs we correctly predicted, an interrelated set of atmospheric and oceanic conditions linked to the warm AMO were again present this year. These included warmer-than-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger west African monsoon, along with much weaker vertical wind shear and wind patterns coming off of Africa that were more favorable for storm development. These conditions, combined with La Nina, helped make this record-breaking, extremely active hurricane season possible,&rdquo said Gerry Bell, Ph.D, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA&rsquos Climate Prediction Center.
This historic hurricane season saw record water levels in several locations, including the Gulf Coast where Hurricane Sally brought the highest observed water levels since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. NOAA&rsquos National Ocean Service stations recorded this data using the Coastal Inundation Dashboard, a tool to observe real-time water levels during a storm.
Scientists at NOAA&rsquos Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory and the Satellite and Information Service were able to get wave height information into the hands of forecasters using new instrumentation like the Ka-band Interferometric Altimeter. This vital oceanic data allowed forecasters to help mariners avoid dangerous situations at sea.
Additionally, three hurricanes &mdash Isaias, Laura, and Sally &mdash passed within range of NOAA&rsquos hurricane ocean gliders this year, capturing invaluable ocean data below the storms while hurricane hunter planes captured atmospheric data above.
Capturing atmospheric data this season was no small feat, as forecasters and researchers relied on the heroic efforts of NOAA and U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters to provide invaluable data during this record-setting season.
Preparedness for the season ahead
This season may officially end on Nov. 30, but it is still possible for additional storms to develop. Stay vigilant and make sure your family is Weather-Ready. The 2021 hurricane season will officially begin on June 1 and NOAA&rsquos Climate Prediction Center will issue its initial seasonal outlook in May.