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Katrina 2005

Katrina was one of the most devastating hurricanes in the history of the United States. It is the deadliest hurricane to strike the United States since the Palm Beach-Lake Okeechobee hurricane of September 1928. It produced catastrophic damage - estimated at $75 billion in the New Orleans area and along the Mississippi coast - and is the costliest U. S. hurricane on record.

This horrific tropical cyclone formed from the combination of a tropical wave, an upper-level trough, and the mid-level remnants of Tropical Depression Ten. A tropical depression formed on August 23 about 200 miles southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas. Moving northwestward, it became Tropical Storm Katrina during the following day about 75 miles east-southeast of Nassau. The storm moved through the northwestern Bahamas on August 24-25, and then turned westward toward southern Florida. Katrina became a hurricane just before making landfall near the Miami-Dade/Broward county line during the evening of August 25. The hurricane moved southwestward across southern Florida into the eastern Gulf of Mexico on August 26. Katrina then strengthened significantly, reaching Category 5 intensity on August 28. Later that day, maximum sustained winds reached 175 mph with an aircraft-measured central pressure of 902 mb while centered about 195 miles southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River. Katrina turned to the northwest and then north, with the center making landfall near Buras, Louisiana at 1110 UTC August 29 with maximum winds estimated at 125 mph (Category 3). Continuing northward, the hurricane made a second landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border at 1445 UTC with maximum winds estimated at 120 mph (Category 3). Weakening occurred as Katrina moved north-northeastward over land, but it was still a hurricane near Laurel, Mississippi. The cyclone weakened to a tropical depression over the Tennessee Valley on 30 August. Katrina became an extratropical low on August 31 and was absorbed by a frontal zone later that day over the eastern Great Lakes.

Katrina brought hurricane conditions to southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, and southwestern Alabama. The Coastal Marine Automated Network (C-MAN) station at Grand Isle, Louisiana reported 10-minute average winds of 87 mph at 0820 UTC August 29 with a gust to 114 mph. Higher winds likely occurred there and elsewhere, as many stations were destroyed, lost power, or lost communications during the storm. Storm surge flooding of 25 to 28 feet above normal tide level occurred along portions of the Mississippi coast, with storm surge flooding of 10 to 20 feet above normal tide levels along the southeastern Louisiana coast. Hurricane conditions also occurred over southern Florida and the Dry Tortugas. The National Hurricane Center reported sustained winds of 69 mph at 0115 UTC August 26 with a gust to 87 mph. Additionally, tropical storm conditions occurred along the northern Gulf coast as far east as the coast of the western Florida Panhandle, as well as in the Florida Keys. Katrina caused 10 to 14 inches of rain over southern Florida, and 8 to 12 inches of rain along its track inland from the northern Gulf coast. Thirty-three tornadoes were reported from the storm.

Katrina is responsible for approximately 1200 reported deaths, including about 1000 in Louisiana and 200 in Mississippi. Seven additional deaths occurred in southern Florida. Katrina caused catastrophic damage in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi. Storm surge along the Mississippi coast caused total destruction of many structures, with the surge damage extending several miles inland. Similar damage occurred in portions of southeastern Louisiana southeast of New Orleans. The surge over topped and breached levees in the New Orleans metropolitan area, resulting in the inundation of much of the city and its eastern suburbs. Wind damage from Katrina extended well inland into northern Mississippi and Alabama. The hurricane also caused wind and water damage in Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

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Wilma 2005

The massive and powerful Wilma formed from a broad area of disturbed weather that stretched across much of the Caribbean Sea during the second week of October. A surface low pressure system gradually became defined near Jamaica on October 14, leading to the formation of a tropical depression on October 15 about 220 miles east-southeast of Grand Cayman. The cyclone moved erratically westward and southward for two days while slowly strengthening into a tropical storm. Wilma became a hurricane and began a west-northwestward motion on October 18. Later that day, Wilma began to explosively deepen. The aircraft-measured minimum central pressure reached 882 mb near 0800 UTC October 19. This pressure was accompanied by a 2-4 mile wide eye. Wilma's maximum intensity is estimated to have been 185 mph a few hours after the 882 mb pressure. On October 20, Wilma weakened slightly and turned northwestward toward the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula. Late on October 21, the slow-moving hurricane made landfall over Cozumel, followed by landfall early the next day over the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula - both at Category 4 intensity. Wilma moved slowly and weakened over northeastern Yucatan, emerging over the Gulf of Mexico early on October 23 as a Category 2 hurricane. Later that day it accelerated northeastward toward southern Florida. The hurricane strengthened over the Gulf waters, and its center made landfall near Cape Romano around 1030 UTC October 24 as a Category 3 hurricane. The eye crossed the Florida Peninsula in less than five hours, moving into the Atlantic just north of Palm Beach as a Category 2 hurricane. Wilma briefly re-intensified just east of Florida, then weakened thereafter. The hurricane moved rapidly northeastward over the western Atlantic and became extratropical about 230 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia late on October 25. The remnants of Wilma were absorbed by another low late the next day.

Wilma brought hurricane conditions to the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula and the adjacent islands, as well as to southern Florida. In Mexico, Cancun reported 10-minute average winds of 100 mph with a gust to 130 mph at 0000 UTC October 22, while Cozumel reported a pressure of 928.0 mb late on October 21. The Isla Mujeres reported 62.05 inches of rain during the hurricane's passage. In Florida, a South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) station in Lake Okeechobee reported 15-minute average winds of 92 mph with a gust to 112 mph at 1500 UTC October 24, while a nearby SFWMD station in Belle Glade reported a gust to 117 mph. Ten tornadoes occurred in Florida due to Wilma.

Twenty-two deaths have been directly attributed to Wilma: 12 in Haiti, 1 in Jamaica, 4 in Mexico, and 5 in Florida. The hurricane caused severe damage in northeastern Yucatan, including Cancun and Cozumel, and widespread damage estimated at $16.8 billion in southern Florida. Wilma also produced major floods in western Cuba.

The 882 mb pressure reported in Wilma is the lowest central pressure on record in an Atlantic hurricane, breaking the old record of 888 mb set by Hurricane Gilbert in September 1988. The central pressure fell 88 mb in 12 hours, which shatters the record of 48 mb in 12 hours held by Hurricane Allen in August 1980.

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Andrew 1992

The most destructive United States hurricane of record started modestly as a tropical wave that emerged from the west coast of Africa on August 14. The wave spawned a tropical depression on August 16, which became Tropical Storm Andrew the next day. Further development was slow, as the west-northwestward moving Andrew encountered an unfavorable upper-level trough. Indeed, the storm almost dissipated on August 20 due to vertical wind shear. By August 21, Andrew was midway between Bermuda and Puerto Rico and turning westward into a more favorable environment. Rapid strengthening occurred, with Andrew reaching hurricane strength on the 22nd and Category 4 status on the 23rd. After briefly weakening over the Bahamas, Andrew regained Category 4 status as it blasted its way across south Florida on August 24. The hurricane continued westward into the Gulf of Mexico where it gradually turned northward. This motion brought Andrew to the central Louisiana coast on August 26 as a Category 3 hurricane. Andrew then turned northeastward, eventually merging with a frontal system over the Mid-Atlantic states on August 28.

Reports from private barometers helped establish that Andrew's central pressure at landfall in Homestead, Florida was 27.23 inches, which makes it the third most intense hurricane of record to hit the United States. Andrew's peak winds in south Florida were not directly measured due to destruction of the measuring instruments. An automated station at Fowey Rocks reported 142 mph sustained winds with gusts to 169 mph (measured 144 ft above the ground), and higher values may have occurred after the station was damaged and stopped reporting. The National Hurricane Center had a peak gust of 164 mph (measured 130 ft above the ground), while a 177 mph gust was measured at a private home. Additionally, Berwick, LA reported 96 mph sustained winds with gusts to 120 mph.

Andrew produced a 17 ft storm surge near the landfall point in Florida, while storm tides of at least 8 ft inundated portions of the Louisiana coast. Andrew also produced a killer tornado in southeastern Louisiana.

Andrew is responsible for 23 deaths in the United States and three more in the Bahamas. The hurricane caused $26.5 billion in damage in the United States, of which $1 billion occurred in Louisiana and the rest in south Florida. The vast majority of the damage in Florida was due to the winds. Damage in the Bahamas was estimated at $250 million.

The National Hurricane Center also maintains the official Tropical Cyclone Report for Hurricane Andrew.

For an interactive map of Hurricane Andrew visit the NOAA Coastal Services Center.

More images of Andrew are available from NASA Goddard Laboratory Web site.

The 11 Worst Hurricanes of South Florida


1919 - Key West: Key West was hit by the most powerful hurricane in its history on Sept. 10, 1919. It was the only hurricane to form in the Atlantic that year. The storm killed more than 800 people before it was done -- the exact total will never be known.

1926 - Miami: The 1926 storm was described by the U.S. Weather Bureau in Miami as "probably the most destructive hurricane ever to strike the United States." It hit Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Hollywood, Hallandale and Miami. The death toll is estimated to be from 325 to perhaps as many as 800. No storm in previous history had done as much property damage.

1928 - Okeechobee: The night 2,000 died. When the hurricane roared ashore at Palm Beach September 16, 1928, many coastal residents were prepared. But inland, along Lake Okeechobee, few conceived the disaster that was brewing. The storm struck first in Puerto Rico, killing 1,000 people, then hit Florida with 125 mph winds. Forty miles west of the coast, rain filled Lake Okeechobee to the brim and the dikes crumbled. Water rushed onto the swampy farmland, and homes and people were swept away. Almost 2,000 people perished.

1935 - The Florida Keys: The Labor Day storm was a category 5 hurricane that killed 408 people in the Florida Keys. People caught in the open were blasted by sand with such force that it stripped away their clothing.

1960 - Hurricane Donna: Donna batters Florida, entire U.S. East Coast. After swiping the Florida Keys and striking land near Fort Myers on Sept. 10, 'Deadly Donna' did not travel along the usual path that storms of her magnitude usually take.

1964 - Hurricane Cleo: Hurricane Cleo blasted Key Biscayne and then moved north along the state's coastline, following State Road 7 and passing over Miami, Opa-locka, West Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. The hurricane caused massive flooding, structural damage and destruction of the citrus crop.

1965 - Hurricane Betsy: Hurricane Betsy was building strength; it looked like it was aiming for South Carolina, posing no threat to South Florida. But on Saturday, Sept. 4, the storm whirled to a stop, about 350 miles east of Jacksonville. When Betsy started moving again on Sunday, she had changed directions. The storm plowed through the Bahamas Monday night, then mauled South Florida a day later.

1992 - Hurricane Andrew: For 27 years, South Florida had been spared a severe hurricane. Then Andrew arrived, the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Andrew wrecked more property than Hugo, Agnes and Betsy combined, with damages estimated at $25 billion. Twenty-three died.

2004 - Hurricane Frances: Hurricane Frances, a sluggish and super-sized storm, may leave as its legacy a singular image: The entire state of Florida, 435 miles from Tallahassee to Key West, enveloped in rain and wind.

2004 - Hurricane Jeanne: Hurricane Jeanne pushed across Florida, launching leftover storm debris, tearing apart weakened buildings, cutting power for millions, and leaving the nation's fourth most populous state dazed by relentless pounding from four hurricanes in six weeks. At least six people died during and after the storm.

2005 - Hurricane Wilma: Hurricane Wilma clobbered South Florida on Monday, October 24, 2005, with surprising strength, leaving the entire region damaged, dark and startled by the ferocity of a storm that many hadn't taken seriously enough.

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