BY AILEEN ZANGOUEI
With the emergence of the latest Hurricane Irma, the Atlantic’s most catastrophic category 5 hurricane ever to be recorded, taking over the news, you might be wondering what this looks like compared to other hurricanes in the past. Comparing the 1-to-5 categories of hurricanes scaled by the Saffir- Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale will help you understand what this means for Florida, and other landfalls impacted by this storm.
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a system used by meteorologists to help us understand the magnitude of the hurricane’s impact. Also, the scale helps residents to take the right safety measures before a hurricane makes landfall.
Hurricane Danny (1985)
Winds range from 74 to 95 miles per hour (mph). Minor damage to property such as some roof damage to frame homes, apartments, and shopping centres should be expected. Protected glass windows generally remain intact, however short-term power outages due to snapped power lines and broken trees occur.
Hurricane Danny is an example of a category 1 hurricane. Danny formed in 1985 and its landfall was Lake Charles, Louisiana on August 15. It caused $100 million (1985 USD) of damage and three fatalities.
Hurricane Erin (1995)
Winds range from 96 to 110 mph and can be expected to produce extensive property damage due to an increase in vulnerability. The high wind velocity poses a greater threat to humans and animals. Longer power-outages ranging from a few days to a few weeks are common. Residents are encouraged to stock up on drinkable water, as filtration systems may fail during a category 2 hurricane.
Hurricane Erin hit the Atlantic Coast of Florida on August 2, 1995, and the Florida panhandle on Aug 3. This category 2 storm caused a plane to crash that killed five passengers. There were six drowning deaths along Florida shores. Damage was $700 million, primarily from broken trees, crop damages, and ship damages.
Hurricane Katrina (2005)
In a category 3 hurricane, winds are ranging from 111 to 130 mph. These high velocity winds cause significant damage to property, humans and animals. Poorly constructed frame homes are often destroyed. Large inland flooding may be caused. Residents must have a supply of non-perishable food (canned food) and water, for electricity and water are commonly unavailable for several days to several weeks following the storm.
Hurricane Katrina’s landfall was near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana on Aug 28, 2005. It then headed towards Louisiana/Mississippi border. At least 1,836 people died in the actual hurricane and in the floods that followed. This made it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Total property damage was an estimated $81 billion (2005 USD).
The Great Galveston Hurricane (1900)
Winds range from 131 to 155 mph in a category 4 storm, and can cause catastrophic damage to property, humans, and animals. It should be expected for severe structural damage to frame homes, apartments, and shopping centres. It’s very important for residents to have a significant supply of non-perishable food and water because a category 4 hurricane often includes long-term power-outages and water shortages. These tend to last from a few weeks to a few months.
This Hurricane took place on September 8, 1900. This high-velocity hurricane and its 15-foot storm surge destroyed at least 3,500 homes and buildings, and 8,000 people were killed, making it one of the deadliest in history. However, residents were not well prepared because of the technology at the time.
Hurricane Irma (2017)
First off, the most important warning for this storm is, “YOU SHOULD BE NO WHERE NEAR THIS STORM!”
Winds are at or greater than 155 mph and can cause catastrophic damage to property, and can be deadly to humans and animals. It should be expected that this hurricane will completely destroy mobile homes, frame homes, apartments, and shopping centres. Nearly all trees in the area will be broken or uprooted. Power outages can last for weeks and possibly months. Long-term water shortages will occur, and most of the area will be inhabitable for weeks or months. Residents will have to relocate themselves for safety.
Hurricane Irma developed on August 30, and within 24 hours became a category 2 storm. Shortly afterwards it became a category 3 hurricane (a major hurricane). On September 5, Irma became a category 5 hurricane with winds of 185 mph. Two weeks earlier, Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 hurricane hit landfall in Texas. So far, Irma has caused 42 deaths.
Currently, the storm has downsized to a category 2 storm, and is 30 miles north-northeast of Cedar Key, Florida, and about 105 miles north-northwest of Tampa, Florida.