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Harris-Mann Climatology Article Archive

Title: Weather Extremes for 2017 Will Bring a Hefty Price Tag

Author: Meteorologist Randy Mann
Published: 8/26/2017

P>This extreme weather for 2017 is going to be the costliest in history. The two huge hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, could have a price tag of up to nearly $300 billion. This is about 25 percent of all the combined natural disasters in the United States from 1980 until 2017. And, this doesn’t include the major wildfires in the West plus all the droughts and other floods across the country for this year.

Both Harvey and Irma hit the U.S. coastlines as a Category 4. Over the last 166 years since records have been kept, there have never been two Category 4 hurricanes making landfall in the U.S. until this year. After Hurricane Harvey hit Texas with many areas reporting over a staggering 50 inches of rain, Hurricane Irma made landfall in the Florida Keys 16 days later, on September 10 resulting in catastrophic damage over parts of the Sunshine State.

As a result of Irma slamming into Florida with 130 mile per hour winds, you will probably pay more at the grocery store, especially orange juice.

In Jacksonville, Florida, the soybean crop was underwater. The city reported about 15 inches of rain and had the worst flooding since the 1860s. The orange groves of Florida were also hit as heavy rains flooded the orange groves forcing growers to pump out standing water to reduce the threat of disease. Oranges were also literally “stripped from the trees” from the strong winds. In Lakeland County, where much of the orange trees are located, as much as 75 percent of the citrus crop was destroyed. Other counties are reporting losses of about 60 percent.

To be classified as a Category 5 hurricane, “sustained” winds must be at least 156 miles per hour. Since 1851, there have been 27 Category 4 hurricanes that made landfall in the U.S. Hurricanes this strong are considered to be rare, so imagine the odds of two of them hitting the U.S. in the same year. And, the hurricane season won’t officially end until November 30. Cliff and I think there’s a chance of another strong hurricane that will threaten the Gulf Coast and the southeastern U.S.

Since 1851, there have been 32 hurricanes that reached Category 5 status. Amazingly enough, there only three of these hurricanes made landfall in the U.S. as a Category 5. In 2005, Katrina weakened to a Category 3 when it hit New Orleans.

The first Category 5 hurricane to hit was U.S. was the Labor Day hurricane that devastated the Florida Keys and western Florida in early September of 1935. That storm was the most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. coastline. Sustained winds were up to 185 miles per hour, about the same speed as an EF4 tornado. By the way, names for hurricanes did not begin until 1953 when female names were used. Male and female names were adopted for the Atlantic storms in 1979.

The next most intense hurricane was Camille in mid-August of 1969 when the storm made landfall in Mississippi. Hurricane Andrew was the third Category 5 storm that struck the Bahamas and Florida in mid-August of 1992.