50 Amazing Hurricane Facts

hurricane Isaac, hurricanes, weather, hurricane facts
Hurricane Isaac seen by satellite on Aug. 18, 2012 as it headed for landfall in southeast Louisiana on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the area in 2005, becoming the costliest hurricane to ever strike the United States.
(Image: © NASA.)

Amazing Hurricanes

hurricanes, tropical storms

Satellite image of Hurricane Andrew with a very tightly formed eye.
(Image credit: NOAA.)

With their roaring winds, torrential rains and storm surge, hurricanes are one of Mother Nature's most dangerous, and stunning, phenomena. They might be called different names in different parts of the world, but their potential impact is the same, and sometimes devastating. Here, we look at some of the most amazing aspects of hurricanes and see which ones have been the strongest, deadliest and costliest.

The deadliest disaster

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Damage from the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was caused by the hurricane and resulting storm surge.
(Image credit: NOAA)

The deadliest weather disaster in U.S. history was an unnamed hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas, on Sept. 8, 1900, as a powerful Category 4 storm, with sustained winds of more than 130 mph (209 kph). It killed an estimated 8,000 people.

Same song, different name

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In early July 2012, two simultaneous hurricanes blew over the eastern Pacific Ocean: Hurricane Emilia and Hurricane Daniel.
(Image credit: NASA.)

Hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones are all the same phenomenon. They're just called different names in different ocean basins. Tropical cyclone is a generic term for storms spawned roughly 300 miles (480 kilometers) north or south of the equator. When they form in the Atlantic or Eastern Pacific and the sustained winds reach 74 mph, the storms are called hurricanes. They are called typhoons in the western North Pacific and cyclones in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Rare phenomenon

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Damage on Cedar Key from 1935 Labor Day Hurricane.
(Image credit: Florida Photographic Collection)

Only three Category 5 hurricanes (the highest category on the hurricane strength scale) have hit the United States since the beginning of the 20th century: the 1935 Florida Keys Labor Day Hurricane, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Hurricane Katrina

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Views of inundated areas in New Orleans following breaking of the levees surrounding the city as the result of Hurricane Katrina.
(Image credit: NWS/Lieut. Commander Mark Moran, NOAA Corps, NMAO/AOC)

Hurricane Katrina is the costliest hurricane to have ever hit the United States, causing some $125 billion dollars worth of damage in New Orleans and across much of the Gulf Coast. It was a Category 5 storm at one point, but just Category 3 when it made landfall along the Louisiana-Mississippi border.

Extreme pressure

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(Image credit: NOAA.)

The most intense tropical cyclone ever measured when considering a storm's central pressure (this pressure drops as cyclones become stronger) was Typhoon Tip, which on Oct. 12, 1979, had a central pressure of 870 millibars.

Intense winds

deadliest storms, cyclones

Satellite image of Cyclone Olivia at peak intensity on April 10, 1996.
(Image credit: NOAA.)

The most intense tropical cyclone in terms of the highest wind speeds measured was Tropical Cyclone Olivia, which struck Australia in 1996. It had wind speeds of 253 mph (407 kph) the fastest wind ever measured on the Earth's surface.

Vast impact

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(Image credit: NOAA.)

Typhoon Tip, in 1979, can boast the record for the largest tropical cyclone on record. Its gale force winds or those above 39 mph (63 kph) extended out for 675 miles (1,110 km) in radius.

Expected season

hurricane and tropical storm tracks 2011

The storm tracks from the 2011 hurricane season. This image uses the NOAA's best storm track data to plot the path of each storm during the 2011 season. Colors indicate the maximum strength that the storm attained.
(Image credit: NOAA)

Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean basin (including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea) runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Well, normally. Read on ...

Early arrivals

hurricanes, deadliest storms

Summary of the 1908 Atlantic hurricane season.
(Image credit: NOAA.)

Hurricanes can form before and after the official, human-imposed start and end dates of the hurricane season. The earliest known hurricane to form in the Atlantic basin was an unnamed one that formed on March 7, 1908.

Late comers

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Image of PPI scope of SPS-6 radar on the USS MIDWAY showing rare January hurricane northeast of British Virgin Islands. This was hurricane Alice.
(Image credit: U.S. Navy)

The latest hurricane to form in the Atlantic basin was the second Hurricane Alice of 1955 on Dec. 31 of that year.