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After decades of relative inactivity in the Atlantic basin, Hurricane Andrew marked the first time in modern history that a Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane had directly threatened a large American city. At the break of dawn, the eye of the storm was entering the Gulf of Mexico and the winds across Dade County had begun to die down. Tests in wind tunnels have found that winds of 130mph are required to overturn a minivan at its most sensitive angle, and winds of 150mph to 180mph are needed for them to be flipped at other angles (Schmidlin, 2003). At left, a seven-story Holiday Inn was gutted of furniture and some interior walls by the hurricane.
A little farther inland in Cutler, the hurricane punched through the windows and walls of large retailers and completely gutted a two-story furniture store. During the storm, even though routine weather observations had ceased operation, the official weather observer at the airport continued to keep track of the station’s wind dial. At left, damage to the Tamiami Airport, which was located 10 miles from the coastline and north of the storm’s eye. Andrew was a rather fast moving storm, so winds in the northern half of the eyewall should have been more than 35mph stronger than winds in the southern eyewall. Despite the destruction in Cutler and Perrine, however, even more intense damage was found farther south. Radar views of the hurricane provided some clues as to why its southern eyewall caused such incredible damage in Naranja Lakes, Homestead and Florida City.
The winds that affected Homestead, Florida City and Naranja Lakes were like nothing that has ever been filmed before. At left, saplings in a South Dade County nursery were blown to the ground by extreme surface winds.
Unlike most US hurricanes, the majority of Hurricane Andrew’s deaths were caused by its winds. Extensive research in the decade following the storm concluded that Hurricane Andrew was significantly stronger than previously estimated (the official intensity at landfall in Homestead was originally 145mph). At left, view of the NHC’s updated wind contour map of Hurricane Andrew at South Florida landfall. Hurricane Andrew remains one of only two Category 5 hurricanes to ever make landfall in the United States.* The storm redefined the concept of a hurricane to a whole new generation and left lasting scars in South Florida that are still visible 20 years later.
The most recent analog to Andrew may be Hurricane Charley which struck Punta Gorda on the west coast of Florida in 2004. Hurricane Charley was likely the third strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States since 1930 in terms of sustained winds. Yep, I’ve heard Charley was even stronger in terms of winds than Hugo in 1989 which was a very powerful Cat 4 storm also. I wonder if any records exist to show how large the 35 Labor Day hurricane was in terms of size, would be interesting to see if it too was a compact small storm like Andrew & Charley, hence the very powerful winds it produced.
Experts are predicting an active season this year, hard to say when we’ll see another US Cat 5 landfalling again, but they seem to hit on average about every 30 years or so.
As a result, I believe the storm – with its extremely low pressure and small size (and gradient of more than 7mb per mile+) was one of the most intense in recorded history. Andrew had the most symmetrical & perfect donut shape on radar I have ever seen with a landfalling hurricane.
Of course, with sea temperatures rising, this will probably make the chances of landfalling Category 4 & 5 hurricanes greater, whereas in the past, those storms might have weakened just before landfall, due to cooler waters by the coast, or shear interference.
How exactly does a hurricane’s winds work differently from a tornado’s winds besides the fact that hurricanes only produce straight-line winds? Also speaking of strongest hurricane wind gusts captured on film, how strong do you reckon these winds gusts would be from Typhoon Yolanda? I personally believe that James Reynolds and Jim Edds both captured the strongest hurricane winds ever filmed. Also, in regard to your previous comment; how much more damaging could you expect say a 150 or 190 mph wind in a tornado would compared with the same wind speed in a hurricane? In terms of the monetary price tag, I do not think Typhoon Haiyan caused nearly as much damage as Hurricane Andrew, but much of that is related to varying construction costs. As for comparing tornado winds vs hurricane winds, my wind estimates for tornadoes are higher than what is commonly accepted. True, but Double Creek probably experienced winds in excess of 300 mph, far beyond what any hurricane could produce.
I had been thinking that since Andrew produced ~160 mph winds with higher gusts but, unless I am underestimating quality of construction, I have not seen pictures of wind damage from that storm equivalent to more than a low EF3 tornado.
I do not believe the wind estimates in the EF Scale are accurate, so I have a hard time comparing tornadic winds to hurricanes if I have no basis for comparison. Hurricanes generally form, travel and dissipate between the 10 and 30 degree marks north of the equator. Most of the damage is done by the incredibly strong and persistent winds, whipped up by the Coriolis Effect that causes the hurricane to spin but the extreme low pressure, sometimes down as low as 870mbar, causes a storm surge as the water under the hurricane rises to fill the void caused by the low pressure.
Hurricane Katrina may have been the most infamous hurricane of recent times, killing hundreds in its path but Hurricane Sandy is likely to supplant it in many people’s minds.
If you’re planning a holiday in the Caribbean or along the eastern seaboard of the United States between June and November, you will need to be aware that this is the hurricane season.
For over half a century, scientists have been able to predict where hurricanes will form and even have a good idea of their direction and travel time; plenty of information for people to evacuate danger zones or to work on protecting property. Hurricane Sandy may be a surprise and unwelcome visitor to New York but you can at least be reassured it won’t happen too often! There’s a strict naming procedure with six rotating lists of A-Z names, once only female, now three of each. Hurricane Arthur is expected to bring the worst of its rains and winds to North Carolina's coast Thursday, before moving out to sea. The following resources describe the science of hurricanes and the hurricane history in the Gulf Coast. Whereas most catastrophic hurricanes are defined by their storm surges and flooding, Andrew proved that the winds in tropical cyclones can be just as devastating. The storm was extremely well shaped, and easily had the most intense and symmetrical eyewall ever captured up-close by land-based radar. At top left, a clip from a journalist and his cameraman as they filmed the hurricane throughout the city, spending the majority of the storm on South Beach.
Cities to the south of Miami had taken the full force of the Category 5 hurricane, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.
Due to Andrew’s incredible power and brisk westward motion, areas well inland were affected by wind gusts over 150mph. At right, the devastated Dadeland Mobile Home Park, which was located several miles east of the airport.
Arguably the most severe wind damage caused by the hurricane was four miles inland in Naranja Lakes, a small community just north of Homestead. Like many properties in the area, buildings that were not leveled still suffered severe internal damage as winds entered residences through windows and doorways.
The Miami radar failed as the leading edge of Andrew’s eyewall came ashore, and the Key West radar ceased functioning when the power went out across the region, so no radars within 200 miles of Homestead captured the hurricane as it crossed the coastline.
These features may explain why the most intense damage was not found in areas affected by Andrew’s right-front quadrant, traditionally the most violent section of a hurricane.

Areas beneath the bright orange cell include Naranja Lakes and the Homestead Air Force Base. At left, storm chaser Mike Theiss’s footage of the strongest hurricane winds ever captured on video during Hurricane Charley. Deep convection in Hurricane Andrew’s southern eyewall likely led to near complete white-out conditions during the peak of the storm. Falling trees are generally the biggest killer, but the deaths in South Florida were more consistent with tornado-related fatalities. In 2002, the hurricane was posthumously upgraded to a Category 5 with maximum sustained winds of 175mph.
Despite being vastly more accurate than the official intensity prior to the 2002 addendum, the contour map still is unable to account for the extreme wind damage south of Cutler Bay. More than anything, the storm highlighted the continued discrepancies that exist between National Hurricane Center estimates and the actual surface conditions in landfalling hurricanes. The storm was very likely under Category 5 intensity when it crossed the Mississippi coastline.
It was compact, small, which may have contributed to it’s maintaining very high wind speeds at landfall in South Florida. Charley was fairly fast moving, rapidly intensified as it struck land, like Andrew, and very small and tightly wound, Charley did immense wind damage to the Punta Gorda area. What made the ’35 Labor Day, Andrew and Charley so particularly violent, beyond what you said in regards to size and path, was the fact they were intensifying as they made landfall. I’m too lazy to look up the exact statistics, but it was significantly smaller even than Andrew. For example, why does it take longer for a hurricane with 190mph winds to destroy a well-built house versus a tornado with 190mph winds that could most likely destroy a well-built house in a matter of seconds? Having reviewed the few clips of their footage available at this time, I’d say they probably got footage of sustained winds near 145mph to 150mph with gusts to, perhaps, 170mph.
In terms of the severity of the wind damage, both storms might be pretty similar in terms of the worst affected areas. That’s roughly between the north coast of Venezuela and the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Walls of water, sometimes up to 25ft can form, especially in conjunction with strong tides, crashing into coastal towns and sweeping inland up to thirty miles. However, the most damage ever caused by a hurricane is attributed to an unnamed one that hit Miami in 1926 causing an estimated US$157bn of damage that crippled the Florida economy for the best part of the following decade. It’s exclusively between those dates as a hurricane needs very warm water to form and prior to June and after November, sea temperatures are too cool. The warning period is often sufficient for travellers to make other plans so whilst disruption is caused, at least it doesn’t come as a surprise. ET Evacuations are under way in parts of North Carolina, where Hurricane Arthur threatens to drench coastal areas.
This website chronicles the progress of Hurricane Katrina from August 25th to August 29th, 2005.
This webpage, developed by the National Hurricane Center, describes hurricane storm surges. This FAQ web site from the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory answers various questions regarding hurricanes, typhoons and tropical cyclones. This trancribed article from American Radio Works discusses the hurricane risk in New Orleans. This website discusses the science of hurricanes and what people can do to be informed and prepared for storms. This site from NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory presents descriptions, 3-D images and animations of some noteworthy hurricanes in recent history, including Andrew, Opal and Fran. This website provides links to many Science Magazine articles related to hurricanes, coastal disasters and disaster policy.
This NASA page is a clearinghouse of information on NASA's research into hurricane activity. This website provides access to images and data gathered by the SeaWinds scatterometer, a microwave radar sensor designed specifically to measure ocean near-surface wind speed and direction.
On August 23rd, 1992, journalists and camera crews positioned themselves in iconic areas throughout the city.
At bottom left, Dennis Smith from the Weather Channel broadcast live footage of the hurricane in Coral Gables. Nearly everyone who lived south of 152nd Street seemed to agree that “something unusual happened” between 4am and 6am the morning of August 24th. Due to the storm’s fairly rapid forward speed, the most extreme winds should have occurred along the immediate coastline of Cutler and East Perrine.
The Tamiami Airport, located 10 miles from the coast, suffered tens of millions of dollars in damage.
The needle remained fixed at this point for three to five minutes before dropping to zero as the anemometer failed. The devastation was unusual because the area was near the geographic center of the storm’s path, well away from the onshore winds that affected Cutler Bay.
Radar in Tampa, however, was able to fill in the gap, though with slightly less detail due to its distance. The convection cells were not as visible in the storm’s back eyewall, where the most intense winds may have occurred, possibly due to interference from precipitation to the west.
Half of the 15 deaths directly attributed to the storm occurred in the collapse of frame homes or apartment buildings.
It was just very tightly wound and compact, and that together with the totally flat landscape in South Florida, and the brief amount of time it was over land, caused it to maintain very high strength.
Of course due to the disaster of Katrina a year later, Charley was forgotten, but it hit as a strong Category 4 storm, and was the strongest landfalling US hurricane since Andrew. Any hurricane chaser knows that an intensifying storm with winds of, say, 100mph feels more intense than a weakening hurricane with winds of 110mph.
But Hugo had been much stronger down in the Antilles Islands by the time it reached the US it was barely a Cat 4. I would bet the next Cat 5 that hits will be in the Gulf or in Florida though, not the East Coast, because the shear tends to be less in those areas and the water is so much warmer and conducive to rapid intensification. Hurricane force winds extended only 20 miles or so from the center, leaving Miami and Key West with only gale force winds.
I am no meteorological expert but I wonder if there is a historical pattern between the Category 5 storms that make landfall in terms of their latitude. But south Florida seems to be prime real estate for 4 & 5 storms because of the factors I mentioned, and will continue to be so, I suspect. The strongest winds ever filmed prior would have been in Hurricane Charley, particularly Mike Theiss’ gas station video, and were likely sustained around 140mph at its peak. Some reports also say the Jarrell tornado brought winds of 160mph to areas of Double Creek for 180 seconds.
Records show that only 1 in 7 hurricanes ever break out of this range because of the Coriolis Effect caused by the earth’s rotation.

The National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm to a Category 2 hurricane Thursday evening. The article highlights the causes of coastal storms like hurricanes and northeasters, and the hazards associated with them. The page contains a detailed description of storm surges and how they are created, tools to evaluate the potential threat from storm surges, safety information and related links. The page provides links to news releases and articles on current hurricane activity as well as some good flash animation segments that visualize how hurricanes work such as 'The Birth of a Hurricane' and 'Looking at Hurricanes'. The site features images of recent hurricanes, links to additional images and animations, information about missions, access to Winds publications, educational information, FAQ’s and links to data. A last minute dip in the storm’s path meant that the urbanized areas south of Miami, from Kendall to Florida City, had taken the brunt of the storm. Airplanes were flipped and rolled into piles, and the airport’s hangars were shredded to their metal frames. The weather observer reported that the winds increased in intensity for another 30 minutes, so it is quite likely sustained winds well over 120mph affected the Tamiami Airport (NHC, 1992). Even more unusual, survivors in Naranja Lakes and Homestead told surveyors that the most extreme winds occurred during the back-eyewall of the hurricane.
While the exact conditions that led to the extreme damage is unknown, it is theorized that powerful downdrafts may have occurred within the convection cells. As the hurricane came ashore, radar images showed powerful convection cells forming over Homestead and nearby areas in the storm’s southern eyewall.
At right, legendary storm chaser Jim Leonard captured gusts of 130mph or more whipping through palm trees in Puerto Rico during Hurricane Georges. Additionally: two men sheltering together in a metal storage trailer west of the Tamiami Airport were killed when the container was flipped several times. The complicated and isolated nature of the wind features in Hurricane Andrew make a single intensity estimate almost impossible to calculate. If it had been a larger storm, it may have weakened more, but also it’s trajectory had something to do with it.
Charley was even stronger than Katrina at landfall, in terms of windspeeds, but of course Katrina dwarfed it in size, pressure, and storm surge. Storm size is one of the most important factors in wind development as the pressure gradient is directly correlated with surface winds. I still believe the most vulnerable US metropolis to a hurricane direct hit are Miami & Tampa. It’s estimated that only 1 in 100 make it as far north as Hurricane Sandy has and when they do, the remains can blow across the Atlantic towards the UK as happened in 1987 with devastating results.
The website also includes links to the USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Center and NOAAi??s National Hurricane Center. This site can help answer some of the questions that users may have about the characteristics of these catastrophic storms, how they are monitored and forecasted, and some of the research topics that are being addressed today. The visualizations are offered as examples of various visualization techniques and how they might be used to convey complex results as understandable images. This website is useful for understanding the large-scale and smaller-scale scientific, social, and political background and issues surrounding this natural disaster.
Employees at the National Hurricane Center, then located in Coral Gables, had the dual task of monitoring the storm and protecting themselves as windows shattered in the upper floors of their building. Despite the widespread use of video cameras in the early 90’s, no clear footage exists of the storm at its height. In both cases, the proximity of the vehicles to buildings likely contributed to their movements. Trees in the area were stripped bare, and some homes near the shoreline were unroofed and partially leveled by wind gusts in excess of 175mph. One woman in Naranja Lakes was fatally injured as her home was destroyed by southerly winds following the passage of the eye.
It is likely these dense cells of precipitation led to extremely intense bursts of wind that may have reached 200mph. One man, who was also more than 12 miles inland on SW 198th Street, was killed by flying debris while running for shelter after the building he had been in collapsed.
Andrew took a sharp left turn out around the Bahamas, and just went straight west across the tip of Florida into the Gulf, whereas most hurricanes tend to be steered or turn and ride along the coast more, which weakens them more. Charley hit in the broad daylight which is unusual, and some of the video clearly show how powerful the winds were with it.
This is the reason I do not believe Typhoon Tip had winds as strong as smaller, more tightly wound storms with extremely low pressures. Andrew was a small storm which skirted Miami proper, just to the south, but if it had hit a bit north, it would have been catastrophic. Arthur is packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph and continues to threaten parts of the North Carolina coast.
The Pinewood Villas, a one-story apartment community in Cutler Ridge, experienced some of the most severe wind damage in the area. So therefore hurricanes have more potential to be at Category 5 strength when they hit the southern tip of Florida, due to its more southern latitude.
Several apartment buildings in the complex were completely leveled, and the remaining units suffered extensive internal damage as doors were ripped from their hinges. If Charley had stayed over the Gulf a bit longer before hitting west Florida, it probably would have easily reached Cat 5 strength.I think there may be a meteorlogical reason why tightly wound compact hurricanes tend to be stronger in terms of winds, like maybe the winds are just more concentrated and spin faster than in a large, spread-out hurricane which is more diffuse.
The watch region also includes large bodies of water such as Pamlico Sound, near the Outer Banks, and Eastern Albemarle Sound, near Kitty Hawk. Professor Fujita toured the damage at the Pinewood Villas and noted the inconsistent nature of the destruction, which was reminiscent of the narrow streaks of damage left by tornadoes. But to sum up I think the tip of Florida is the most likely place where a future Cat 5 will hit, due to its southernmost location & based on history.
Tourists were told to leave Hatteras Island as of Thursday morning; evacuations are optional for residents. Andrew did virtually no water damage, save for some inland flooding and marina areas.Sustained winds at landfall were ~165mph, well into Category 5 range, and gusts as high as 190mph I have heard.
The storm is adding new worries to holiday plans for the Fourth of July weekend: Near North Carolina, tourists could now face wet roads and evacuations, while farther north, event organizers are adjusting their plans to account for potentially heavy rains. In Massachusetts, officials moved the annual Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular up one day, to be sure to put on the full show of music and fireworks. For vacationers who do make it to the shore, they should take care in the ocean: The hurricane center says Arthur has churned the water from Florida to North Carolina, creating treacherous rip currents in some areas.

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