A Category 5 Atlantic hurricane is a tropical cyclone that reaches Category 5 intensity on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale, within the Atlantic Ocean to the north of the equator. They are amongst the strongest tropical cyclones that can form on earth and have 1-minute sustained wind speeds of over 137 knots (254 km/h ; 158 mph ; 70 m/s ). The United States National Hurricane Center currently estimates that a total of 36 tropical cyclones between 1851 and 2020, have peaked as a category 5 hurricane.
Within the Atlantic Ocean to the north of the Equator, hurricanes are officially monitored by the United States's National Hurricane Center (NHC), however, other meteorological services, such as Meteo France, the United Kingdom's Met Office and Environment Canada also monitor the basin. Within the region, a Category 5 hurricane is considered to be a tropical cyclone that has 1-minute mean maximum sustained wind speeds of 137 knots (254 km/h; 158 mph; 70 m/s) or greater on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale at 10 metres (32.8 ft) above ground.
A total of 36 tropical cyclones have been estimated to have peaked as a Category 5 hurricane on the SSHWS, with the first thought to have occurred during 1924. Officially, from 1924 to 2019, 36 Category 5 hurricanes have been recorded. No Category 5 hurricanes were observed officially before 1924. It can be presumed that earlier storms reached Category 5 strength over open waters, but the strongest winds were not measured. The anemometer, a device used for measuring wind speed, was invented in 1846. However, during major hurricane strikes, the instruments as a whole were often blown away, leaving the hurricane's peak intensity unrecorded. For example, as the Great Beaufort Hurricane of 1879 struck North Carolina, the anemometer cups were blown away when indicating 138 mph (222 km/h).
Officially, the decade with the most Category 5 hurricanes is 2000–2009, with eight Category 5 hurricanes having occurred: Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Emily (2005), Katrina (2005), Rita (2005), Wilma (2005), Dean (2007), and Felix (2007). The previous decades with the most Category 5 hurricanes were the 1930s and 1960s, with six occurring between 1930 and 1939 (before naming began).
The most consecutive years to feature at least one Category 5 hurricane each is four, from 2016 to 2019. Six storms have reached that category in these years - Matthew, Irma, Maria, Michael, Dorian, and Lorenzo. Of these, Dorian had the highest winds, at 160 kn (185 mph; 295 km/h), while Maria had the lowest central pressure, at 908 mbar (26.81 inHg ).
Nine Atlantic hurricanes—Camille, Allen, Andrew, Isabel, Ivan, Dean, Felix, Irma and Maria—reached Category 5 intensity on more than one occasion; that is, by reaching Category 5 intensity, weakening to a Category 4 status or lower, and then becoming a Category 5 hurricane again. Such hurricanes have their dates shown together. Camille, Andrew, Dean, Felix, Irma, and Maria each attained Category 5 status twice during their lifespans. Allen, Isabel, and Ivan reached Category 5 intensity on three separate occasions. However, no Atlantic hurricane has reached Category 5 intensity more than three times during its lifespan. The 1932 Cuba hurricane holds the record for the most time spent as a Category 5 hurricane (although it took place before satellite or aircraft reconnaissance, so this record may be somewhat suspect). Irma holds the record for the longest continuous span as a Category 5 storm in the satellite era.
Thirty-six Category 5 hurricanes have been recorded in the Atlantic basin since 1851, when records began. Only one Category 5 has been recorded in July, eight in August, twenty-one in September, six in October, and one in November. There have been no officially recorded June or off-season Category 5 hurricanes.
The July and August Category 5 hurricanes reached their high intensities in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. These are the areas most favorable for tropical cyclone development in those months.
September sees the most Category 5 hurricanes, with over half of the total. This coincides with the climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which occurs in early September. September Category 5s reached their strengths in any of the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and open Atlantic. These places are where September tropical cyclones are likely to form. Many of these hurricanes are either Cape Verde-type storms, which develop their strength by having a great deal of open water; or so-called Bahama busters, which intensify over the warm Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico.
Six of the seven Category 5 hurricanes in October and November (the exception being Michael) reached their intensities in the western Caribbean, a region that Atlantic hurricanes strongly gravitate toward late in the season. This is due to the climatology of the area, which sometimes has a high-altitude anticyclone that promotes rapid intensification late in the season, as well as warm waters.
|Name||Dates as a|
|Duration as a|
|"Cuba"||October 19, 1924||12 hours||165 mph (270 km/h)||910 hPa (26.87 inHg)||Central America, Mexico, Cuba|
Florida, The Bahamas
| "San Felipe II|
|September 13–14, 1928||12 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||929 hPa (27.43 inHg)||Lesser Antilles, The Bahamas|
United States East Coast, Atlantic Canada
|"Bahamas"||September 5–6, 1932||1 day||160 mph (260 km/h)||921 hPa (27.20 inHg)||The Bahamas, Northeastern United States||16|
|"Camaguey"||November 5–8, 1932||3 days 6 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||915 hPa (27.02 inHg)||Lesser Antilles, Jamaica, Cayman Islands|
Cuba, The Bahamas, Bermuda
|"Cuba–Brownsville"||August 30, 1933||12 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||930 hPa (27.46 inHg)||The Bahamas, Cuba, Florida|
|"Tampico"||September 21, 1933||12 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||929 hPa (27.43 inHg)||Jamaica, Yucatán Peninsula||184||$5 million|
|"Labor Day"||September 3, 1935||18 hours||185 mph (295 km/h)||892 hPa (26.34 inHg)||The Bahamas, Florida, Georgia|
The Carolinas, Virginia
|"New England"||September 19–20, 1938||18 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||940 hPa (27.76 inHg)||Eastern United States, Southwestern Quebec||682||$306 million|
|Carol||September 3, 1953||12 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||929 hPa (27.43 inHg)||Bermuda, New England, Atlantic Canada||5||$2 million|
|Janet||September 27–28, 1955||18 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||914 hPa (26.99 inHg)||Lesser Antilles, Central America||1,023||$65.8 million|
|Esther||September 17, 1961||18 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||919 hPa (27.14 inHg)||East Coast of the United States||7||$6 million|
|Hattie||October 31, 1961||6 hours||165 mph (270 km/h)||914 hPa (26.99 inHg)||Central America||319||$60.3 million|
|Beulah||September 20, 1967||18 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||923 hPa (27.26 inHg)||The Caribbean, Mexico, Texas||59||$208 million|
|Camille||August 16–18, 1969 †||1 day 6 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||900 hPa (26.58 inHg)||Cuba, United States Gulf Coast||259||$1.42 billion|
|Edith||September 9, 1971||6 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||943 hPa (27.85 inHg)||The Caribbean, Central America|
Mexico, United States Gulf Coast
|Anita||September 2, 1977||12 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||926 hPa (27.34 inHg)||Mexico||11||Extensive|
|David||August 30–31, 1979||1 day 18 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||924 hPa (27.29 inHg)||The Caribbean, United States East coast||2,068||$1.54 billion|
|Allen||August 5–9, 1980 †||3 days||190 mph (305 km/h)||899 hPa (26.55 inHg)||The Caribbean, Yucatán Peninsula|
Mexico, South Texas
|Gilbert||September 13–14, 1988||1 day||185 mph (295 km/h)||888 hPa (26.22 inHg)||Jamaica, Venezuela, Central America|
|Hugo||September 15, 1989||6 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||918 hPa (27.11 inHg)||The Caribbean, United States East Coast||107||$10 billion|
|Andrew||August 23–24, 1992 †||16 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||922 hPa (27.23 inHg)||The Bahamas, Florida, United States Gulf Coast||65||$26.5 billion|
|Mitch||October 26–28, 1998||1 day 18 hours||180 mph (285 km/h)||905 hPa (26.72 inHg)||Central America, Yucatán Peninsula, South Florida||19,325||$6.2 billion|
|Isabel||September 11–14, 2003 †||1 day 18 hours||165 mph (270 km/h)||915 hPa (27.02 inHg)||Greater Antilles, Bahamas|
Eastern United States, Ontario
|Ivan||September 9–14, 2004 †||2 days 12 hours||165 mph (270 km/h)||910 hPa (26.87 inHg)||The Caribbean, Venezuela, United States Gulf Coast||124||$23.3 billion|
|Emily||July 16, 2005||6 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||929 hPa (27.43 inHg)||Windward Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Texas||17||$1.01 billion|
|Katrina||August 28–29, 2005||18 hours||175 mph (280 km/h)||902 hPa (26.64 inHg)||Bahamas, United States Gulf Coast||1,836||$125 billion|
|Rita||September 21–22, 2005||1 day||180 mph (285 km/h)||895 hPa (26.43 inHg)||Cuba, United States Gulf Coast||125||$12 billion|
|Wilma||October 19, 2005||18 hours||185 mph (295 km/h)||882 hPa (26.05 inHg)||Greater Antilles, Central America, Florida||87||$29.4 billion|
|Dean||August 18–21, 2007†||1 day||175 mph (280 km/h)||905 hPa (26.72 inHg)||The Caribbean, Central America||45||$1.76 billion|
|Felix||September 3–4, 2007†||1 day||175 mph (280 km/h)||929 hPa (27.43 inHg)||Nicaragua, Honduras||133||$720 million|
|Matthew||October 1, 2016||12 hours||165 mph (270 km/h)||934 hPa (27.58 inHg)||Antilles, Venezuela, Colombia|
United States East Coast, Atlantic Canada
|Irma||September 5–9, 2017†||3 days||180 mph (285 km/h)||914 hPa (26.99 inHg)||Cape Verde, The Caribbean, Virgin Islands|
|Maria||September 18–20, 2017 †||1 day 4 hours|
|175 mph (280 km/h)||908 hPa (26.81 inHg)||Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico|
Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands
|Michael||October 10, 2018||30 minutes||160 mph (260 km/h)||919 hPa (27.14 inHg)||Central America, United States Gulf Coast||74||$25.1 billion|
|Dorian||September 1–2, 2019||1 day 6 hours||185 mph (295 km/h)||910 hPa (26.87 inHg)||Barbados, Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, United States East Coast, Atlantic Canada, Greenland||84||$4.68 billion|
|Lorenzo||September 29, 2019||3 hours||160 mph (260 km/h)||925 hPa (27.32 inHg)||Cabo Verde, Azores, Western Europe||19||$362 million|
|Overall reference for Name, dates, duration, winds and pressure: |
†Discontinuous duration (weakened below Category 5 then restrengthened to that classification at least once)
Officially, from 1924 to 2019, 36 Category 5 hurricanes have been recorded. No Category 5 hurricanes were observed officially before 1924. It can be presumed that earlier storms reached Category 5 strength over open waters, but the strongest winds were not measured. The anemometer, a device used for measuring wind speed, was invented in 1846. However, during major hurricane strikes, the instruments as a whole were often blown away, leaving the hurricane's peak intensity unrecorded. For example, as the Great Beaufort Hurricane of 1879 struck North Carolina, the anemometer cups were blown away when indicating 138 mph (222 km/h).
As of May 2018 [update] , a reanalysis of weather data was ongoing by researchers who may upgrade or downgrade other Atlantic hurricanes currently listed at Categories 4 and 5. For example, the 1825 Santa Ana hurricane is suspected to have reached Category 5 strength. Furthermore, paleotempestological research aims to identify past major hurricanes by comparing sedimentary evidence of recent and past hurricane strikes. For example, a "giant hurricane" significantly more powerful than Hurricane Hattie (Category 5) has been identified in Belizean sediment, having struck the region sometime before 1500.
With the exception of Hurricane Lorenzo, which did not make landfall but still brought hurricane-force winds to the Azores, all Atlantic Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall at some location, and all but four (Carol, Esther, Mitch and Isabel) made landfall at some location at major hurricane strength. Most Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic make landfall because of their proximity to land in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, where the usual synoptic weather patterns carry them towards land, as opposed to the westward, oceanic mean track of Eastern Pacific hurricanes. Seventeen of the storms made landfall at least once while at Category 5 intensity; 2007 and 2017 are the only years in which two storms made landfall at this intensity.
Many of these systems made landfall shortly after weakening from a Category 5 hurricane. This weakening can be caused by dry air near land, shallower waters due to shelving, interaction with land, replacement of its eyewalls, or cooler waters near shore. [ citation needed ] In southern Florida, the return period for a Category 5 hurricane is roughly once every 50 years.
The following table lists these hurricanes by landfall intensity. As Lorenzo did not make landfall, it is omitted.
|"Okeechobee"||1928||Puerto Rico|| Guadeloupe,|
Turks and Caicos Islands, The Bahamas
|"Cuba"||1932||Little Cayman & Cuba||The Bahamas||Martinique|
|"Cuba–Brownsville"||1933||The Bahamas||Cuba & Texas|
|"Tampico"||1933||Yucatán Peninsula||Mainland Mexico|
|"Labor Day"||1935||Florida Keys||Northwest Florida||The Bahamas|
|"New England"||1938||New York & Connecticut|
|Janet||1955||Yucatán Peninsula||Mainland Mexico|
|Esther||1961||Massachusetts & Maine|
|Camille||1969||Louisiana & Mississippi||Cuba|
|Edith||1971||Nicaragua||Louisiana||Belize & Mexico|
|David||1979||Dominican Republic||Dominica||Florida||Cuba, The Bahamas, & Georgia|
|Gilbert||1988||Quintana Roo||Jamaica & Tamaulipas|
|Hugo||1989||Guadeloupe, Saint Croix, & South Carolina||Puerto Rico|
|Andrew||1992||Eleuthera & Florida||Berry Islands||Louisiana|
|Mitch||1998||Honduras||Campeche & Florida|
|Katrina||2005||Louisiana & Mississippi||Florida|
|Wilma||2005||Cozumel & Quintana Roo||Florida|
|Matthew||2016||Haiti, Cuba & Grand Bahama||South Carolina|
|Irma||2017||Barbuda, Saint Martin, British Virgin Islands & Cuba||Little Inagua & Florida Keys||Southwest Florida|
|Dorian||2019||Abaco Islands & Grand Bahama||North Carolina||St. Thomas||Saint Lucia & Barbados|
The 1970 Atlantic hurricane season was the first season of the most recent low-activity era of tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic. It was also the first year in which reconnaissance aircraft flew into all four quadrants of a tropical cyclone. The season officially began on June 1 and lasted until November 30. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. The season was fairly average, with 10 total storms forming, of which five were hurricanes. Two of those five became major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson scale. The first system, Hurricane Alma, developed on May 17. The storm killed eight people, seven from flooding in Cuba and one from a lightning strike in Florida. In July, Tropical Storm Becky brought minor flooding to Florida and other parts of the Southern United States, leaving one death and about $500,000 (1970 USD) in damage.
The 1976 Atlantic hurricane season featured only one fully tropical storm throughout both the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, a rare occurrence. The season officially began on June 1 and lasted until November 30. These dates conventionally delimit the period of each year when most tropical cyclones form in the Atlantic basin. However, the first system, a subtropical storm, developed in the Gulf of Mexico on May 21, several days before the official start of the season. The system spawned nine tornadoes in Florida, resulting in about $628,000 (1976 USD) in damage, though impact was minor otherwise. The season was near average, with ten tropical storm forming, of which six became hurricanes. Two of those six became major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or higher on the Saffir–Simpson scale.
The 1957 Atlantic hurricane season featured the one of longest travelling tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin, Hurricane Carrie. Nevertheless, the season was generally inactive with eight tropical storms – two of which went unnamed – and three hurricanes, two of which intensified further to attain major hurricane intensity. The season officially began on June 15 and ended on November 15, though the year's first tropical cyclone developed prior to the start of the season on June 8. The final storm dissipated on October 27, well before the official end of the season. The strongest hurricane of the year was Carrie, which reached the equivalent of a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane scale on two separate occasions in the open Atlantic; Carrie later caused the sinking of the German ship Pamir southwest of the Azores, resulting in 80 deaths.
The 1932 Atlantic hurricane season was the period during 1932 in which tropical cyclones formed in the Atlantic Basin. It was a relatively active season, with fifteen known storms, six hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. Two storms attained Category 5 intensity, the first known occurrence in which multiple Category 5 hurricanes formed in the same year. The season began with the formation of Tropical Storm One on May 5, and ended with the dissipation of Hurricane Fourteen, also known as the 1932 Cuba hurricane, on November 14. Tropical cyclones that did not approach populated areas or shipping lanes, especially if they were relatively weak and of short duration, may have remained undetected. Because technologies such as satellite monitoring were not available until the 1960s, historical data on tropical cyclones from this period are often not reliable. The Atlantic hurricane reanalysis project discovered four new tropical cyclones, all of which were tropical storms, that occurred during the year. These storms were later added to the HURDAT database.
The 1926 Atlantic hurricane season featured the highest number of major hurricanes at the time. At least eleven tropical cyclones developed during the season, all of which intensified into a tropical storm and eight further strengthened into hurricanes. Six hurricanes deepened into a major hurricane, which is Category 3 or higher on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. It was a fairly active and deadly season. The first system, the Nassau hurricane, developed near the Lesser Antilles on July 22. Moving west-northwest for much of its duration, the storm struck or brush several islands of the Lesser and Greater Antilles. However, the Bahamas later received greater impact. At least 287 deaths and $7.85 million (1926 USD) in damage was attributed to this hurricane. The next cyclone primarily affected mariners in and around the Maritimes of Canada, with boating accidents and drownings resulting in between 55 and 58 fatalities. In late August, the third hurricane brought widespread impact to the Gulf Coast of the United States, especially Louisiana. Crops and buildings suffered $6 million (1926 USD) in damage and there were 25 people killed. The next three storms left relatively little to no damage on land.
The 1911 Atlantic hurricane season was relatively inactive, with only six known tropical cyclones forming in the Atlantic during the summer and fall. There were three suspected tropical depressions, including one that began the season in February and one that ended the season when it dissipated in December. Three storms intensified into hurricanes, two of which attained Category 2 status on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. Storm data is largely based on the Atlantic hurricane database, which underwent a thorough revision for the period between 1911 and 1914 in 2005.
The 1896 Atlantic hurricane season was fairly inactive but produced one of the costliest hurricanes ever to strike the United States until that point, along with several other destructive tropical cyclones. The season began in early July with a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and ended in late November with a slow-moving tropical storm over the Lesser Antilles. Of the season's seven documented systems, six are believed to have become hurricanes, and two intensified into major hurricanes—the equivalence of Category 3 or greater on the modern-day Saffir–Simpson scale. All but one of the systems directly affected land to some degree; Hurricane "Six" remained over open water and only posed a threat to shipping lanes. In addition, a possible storm was identified off the coast of North Carolina on August 28–29, but modern reanalysis efforts have found insufficient evidence to classify it as a tropical cyclone. Tropical systems in the 1896 season killed at least 286 people and inflicted more than $10 million in damage.
The 1888 Atlantic hurricane season ran through the summer and the first half of fall in 1888. In the 1888 Atlantic season there were two tropical storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. However, in the absence of modern satellite and other remote-sensing technologies, only storms that affected populated land areas or encountered ships at sea are known, so the actual total could be higher. An undercount bias of zero to six tropical cyclones per year between 1851 and 1885 and zero to four per year between 1886 and 1910 has been estimated.
Tropical cyclogenesis is the development and strengthening of a tropical cyclone in the atmosphere. The mechanisms through which tropical cyclogenesis occurs are distinctly different from those through which temperate cyclogenesis occurs. Tropical cyclogenesis involves the development of a warm-core cyclone, due to significant convection in a favorable atmospheric environment.
Hurricane Bridget of June 1971 was one of the worst hurricanes to strike the Mexican city of Acapulco. It formed on June 14 as a tropical depression, which is a minimal tropical cyclone with winds less than gale force. However, it was soon upgraded to a tropical storm, and Bridget steadily intensified to become a hurricane on June 15. After peaking at Category 2 intensity, it weakened to a tropical storm on June 17, then made landfall in Mexico. Hours later, however, it turned offshore as a tropical depression. Bridget dissipated on June 20 after leaving heavy damage and 17 deaths in the Acapulco area.
The 1926 Louisiana hurricane caused widespread devastation to the United States Gulf Coast, particularly in Louisiana. The third tropical cyclone and hurricane of the 1926 Atlantic hurricane season, it formed from a broad area of low pressure in the central Caribbean Sea on August 20. Moving to the northwest, the storm slowly intensified, reaching tropical storm strength on August 21 and subsequently attaining hurricane strength after passing through the Yucatán Channel. The hurricane steadily intensified as it recurved northwards in the Gulf of Mexico, before reaching peak intensity just prior to landfall near Houma, Louisiana on August 25 with winds of 115 mph (185 km/h). After moving inland, the tropical cyclone moved to the west and quickly weakened, before dissipating on August 27.