Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Top 5 costliest Atlantic hurricanes since 1980

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On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina touching down in New Orleans and other Gulf Coast areas, Youth Press staff writers explored the phenomenon of hurricanes.

Hurricane Katrina (2005) — $81 billion — Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. Katrina formed on Aug. 23 during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and caused devastation along much of the Gulf Coast. The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New Orleans, which flooded as the levee system failed hours after the storm had moved inland. The hurricane caused severe destruction across the entire Mississippi coast and into Alabama. At least 1,836 people lost their lives in Hurricane Katrina and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane in Florida.

Hurricane Andrew (1992) — $38 billion — Hurricane Andrew is the second most-destructive hurricane in U.S. history, and the last of three Category 5 hurricanes that made U.S. landfall during the 20th century, after the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969. The storm caused 65 deaths. Andrew struck the northwestern Bahamas, southern Florida at Homestead (south of Miami) and southwest Louisiana in August. Andrew caused most of its damage in south Florida, where entire neighborhoods were leveled. It served as the symbolic ‘‘monster” Atlantic hurricane until 2005.

Hurricane Wilma (2005) — $29 billion — Hurricane Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin. It devastated parts of the Yucatan Peninsula and southern Florida during October 2005. Wilma set records for both strength and seasonal activity. Wilma was only the third Category 5 hurricane ever to develop in the month of October, and with the formation of Wilma, the 2005 season became the most active on record, exceeding the 21 storms of the 1933 season. At least 63 deaths were reported.

Hurricane Charley (2004) — $15 billion — Hurricane Charley was the second major storm of the 2004 Atlantic season, lasting from Aug. 9 to 15 and peaking as a 150 mph Category 4 hurricane. The hurricane made landfall in southwestern Florida at peak intensity, the strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. since Andrew 12 years prior. The hurricane continued to the northeast, and passed through Orlando while retaining winds of up to 106 mph. Charley, initially expected to hit further north in Tampa, caught many Floridians off-guard. Charley caused 10 casualties in the United States.

Hurricane Ivan (2004) — $13 billion — Hurricane Ivan was the strongest hurricane of the 2004 Atlantic hurricane season. Ivan reached Category 5 strength, the highest possible category, and it became the sixth (now 10th) most intense Atlantic hurricane on record, as well as the only Category 5 storm of the season. Ivan caused catastrophic damage to Grenada, which it struck directly at Category 3 intensity on Sept. 11, 2004. After peaking in strength, it moved north across the Gulf of Mexico to make landfall as a Category 3 storm in Orange Beach, Ala., causing heavy damage there. Ivan dropped heavy rains on the Southeastern United States as it looped across Florida and back into the Gulf, where continued to barrage Louisiana and Texas as a much weaker storm.

Outlook for 2007?

After an unusually calm 2006 season, many hurricane experts predicted an exceptionally active season this year, much like the 2005 season, which featured Katrina, Rita and Wilma. However, there has been only one noteable 2007 storm thus far. On Aug. 21, just after barreling through Jamaica, Hurricane Dean, reached Category 5 status and made landfall on the Yucatan peninsula. Jamaica was reportedly hit with $1.5 billion in damage.

Naming Hurricanes

Why do we give names to hurricanes?

According to the National Hurricane Center Web site, the use of short, distinctive names in written and spoken communications is quicker and less subject to error than the older more cumbersome latitude-longitude identification methods. ‘‘The advantages are especially important in exchanging detailed storm information between hundreds of widely scattered stations, coastal bases and ships at sea,” the site reports.

For more information,visit ww.nhc.noaa.gov⁄aboutnames.shtml