The giant tropical storms called cyclones, typhoons, or hurricanes are the fascination of many people due to their immense power and destructiveness. Although records of hurricanes have only been kept for about 150 years, that has been enough time to show how awesome these storms can be in terms of rainfall, winds, tides, and tornadoes.
Hurricanes form in warm tropical waters near the equator, then generally move east with the prevailing winds. Atlantic storms often form near the west coast of Africa, so they have to travel a fair distance over water before making landfall. The longer they are over the warm water that fuels them, the more they can strengthen.
Here are some records of strong Atlantic hurricanes:
Strongest (most intense) hurricane based on pressure in the eye: Hurricane Wilma, 2005, at 882 millibars (mb) of mercury. For comparison, normal pressure ranges from 990 to 1015 mb.
Strongest land-falling hurricane: Labor Day hurricane, 1935, 892 mb.
Longest Category 5 hurricane: Hurricane San Curiaco, August, 1899 (28 days)
Most tornadoes: Hurricane Frances (2004), which produced 123.
Deadliest U.S. hurricane since 1926*: Hurricane Katrina (2005) with at least 1800 casualties. Katrina was the 6th strongest hurricane on record, at 902 mb.
Costliest U.S. hurricane since 1926*: Hurricane Katrina (2005), with estimated damage at $81 billion.
Fastest intensification: The winds of Hurricane Wilma (2005) strengthened from 150 mph to 184 mph in less than 5 ½ hours, with an accompanying pressure drop from 954 mb to 901 mb.
*The qualification is “since 1926” because very strong storms hit Miami (1926) and Galveston (1900), causing serious damage and casualties. Taking inflation into account, the 1926 storm would have resulted in $140 billion in damages, and the Galveston hurricane approximately $92 billion. Over 6,000 people died in Galveston.
Pacific typhoons or cyclones tend to be stronger than hurricanes since there is a much larger expanse of water in which they develop.
Strongest tropical cyclone: Typhoon Tip (1979) with pressure of 870 mb.
Highest storm surge: Tropical Cyclone Mahina, which made landfall at Bathurst Bay in Australia (1899), has been reported by various accounts to have had a storm surge between 42 and 48 ft.
Deadliest tropical cyclone: Great Bhola Cyclone of 1970, Bangladesh, with 550,000 deaths.
Fastest intensification: The central pressure of Typhoon Forrest (1983) dropped 100 mb in a 24 hr. period. During that time, sustained winds increased from 75 to 173 mph.
Anyone who resides in a coastal area should be prepared for hurricanes or typhoons. Check the resources below for more information on hurricane preparation!