ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On Sunday morning, Hurricane Dorian strengthened into a Category 5 storm as it moved closer to the Abaco Islands. The storm made landfall a short time later and has stayed mostly stationary for days, bringing devastation to the islands.
Dorian became the fifth Category 5 hurricane since 2016, but storms that strong are rare. Since records began in 1851, there have been 35 Category 5 storms, with the first coming in October 1924.
When the National Hurricane Center identifies the category of a hurricane, it is based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The scale takes sustained wind speed — the average wind speed over a one-minute time span — and puts it into categories to predict how damaging the storm will be.
Category 5 is the highest classification, with winds clocking in faster than 157 mph. The National Hurricane Center said power like that will leave affected areas uninhabitable for weeks by destroying a high percentage of framed homes, isolating residential areas by downing trees and power poles and causing weeks-long power outages.
One in every 45 tropical storms in the Atlantic becomes a Category 5 hurricane and only half of those made landfall at Category 5 strength. Here are some notable facts about Category 5 hurricanes.
Most form in September
September is the heart of hurricane season, so it makes sense that it is also when the most powerful storms form.
Twenty of the 35 Category 5 storms gained that strength in September, 12 more than any other month.
The earliest Category 5 hurricane was Emily, which spent six hours as a Category 5 on July 16, 2005. The latest was the Cuba hurricane of 1932, which spent 78 hours as a Category 5 storm from Nov. 5 to 8.
The power doesn’t last
That 1932 Cuba storm wasn’t just the latest Category 5 storm, it also stayed in Category 5 longer than any other storm. It spent 78 hours in the strongest classification.
That is far from normal, however. Most Category 5 storms don’t stay that strong for more than a day. Dorian stayed a Category 5 storm for 27 hours, making it one of just 10 storms that stayed in Category 5 for more than 24 hours.
Hurricane Michael spent the shortest amount of time in Category 5, just 30 minutes in 2018.
Places hit the most
The Bahamas are among the most familiar with Category 5 storms. Four Category 5 storms have made landfall on the islands. They saw Category 5 storms in 1932 and 1933 and another with Hurricane Andrew in 1992 before being hit by Dorian on Sunday.
Four Category 5 hurricanes have made landfall in the United States. The most common state to be hit is Florida, which was hit by Michael in 2018, Andrew in 1992 and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Louisiana and Mississippi were both hit by Camille in 1969.
The deadliest storm in modern hurricane history was Mitch, the Category 5 storm that hit Central America, the Yucatán Peninsula and South Florida in 1998. Over the life of the storm, the NOAA estimated more than 11,000 people were killed.
Seven of the 35 Category 5 storms killed more than 1,000 people, and four of the 10 deadliest storms were Category 5 storms.
More than one in a season
This is probably the last thing you want to read, but there have been six years with multiple Category 5 storms. The most recent was 2017, when Irma and Maria became Category 5 storms just nine days apart, the shortest time between two Category 5 storms ever.
The years 1932 and 1933 both saw two Category 5 hurricanes, the only time back-to-back hurricane seasons had multiple storms.
The most Category 5 storms in a single year was 2005 when four storms hit. Hurricane Emily hit in July followed by Katrina in August, Rita in September and Wilma in October.
What other people are reading right now:
- Hurricane Dorian a 'catastrophic' Category 5 hurricane
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- 5 dead, 21 injured in second mass shooting in weeks in West Texas
- There've already been 1,000 reports of suspected price gouging in Florida as Dorian approaches
- Orlando International Airport will now stay open through Dorian
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