Well...Cat 5 will hit on average 5 or more times in 100 years...again, hardly "freak". Here are some examples...
Historical Hurricanes: 1940-1980
Some of the more devastating hurricanes included Audrey in 1957, one of the most powerful hurricanes to strike the United States, Camille, and Agnes, which drenched the Northeast in 1972.
Early in the hurricane season, tropical storms often form in the Gulf of Mexico, western Caribbean Sea, or the Bay of Campeche off the coast of Mexico. Hurricane Audrey, a June storm, fit this pattern. It was the most powerful June storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea or Atlantic Ocean. Audrey formed in the Bay of Campeche as a tropical storm on June 24, 1957.
Audrey moved due north from there and intensified rapidly into a hurricane in the southern Gulf of Mexico by June 26th. The storm moved north toward the Texas and Louisiana coast and made landfall on June 27th. The storm intensified rapidly while crossing the Gulf, making landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Scale.
The Louisiana coastal area is especially vulnerable to a storm surge because of its low elevation. Storm surge from Audrey exceeded 12 feet on the Louisiana coast as the storm made landfall near Beaumont, Texas. Gulf waters rushed over 25 miles inland.
Many homes were destroyed in the Lake Charles area of Louisiana, and offshore oil installations suffered heavy damage. Estimates placed damage totals at $150 million. Three hundred and ninety people perished.
Hurricane Camille was one of only two hurricanes to make landfall on the United States mainland in the Twentieth Century as a Category 5 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Only the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane was more intense.[In fact according to records their have been 3 since records began]
Camille formed in early August 1969. It became a tropical storm and then a hurricane in the Caribbean Sea south of Hispaniola before it moved over extreme western Cuba, where it intensified rapidly in the southern Gulf of Mexico.
The storm's cloud pattern appeared smaller than some hurricanes on satellite images. Since meteorologists in 1969 thought the size of the cloud pattern determined a storm's strength, hurricane forecasters did not realize the strength of Camille. Only after reconnaissance aircraft reported winds of over 150 miles per hour did forecasters know what they were dealing with.
The wind and storm surge damage was catastrophic. The eye of the hurricane made landfall just west of Pass Christian, Mississippi. Gulfport, Mississippi reported winds of 100 miles per hour with gusts from 150 to 175 miles per hour. The storm surge in the Pass Christian/Long Beach, Mississippi, area was in excess of 24 feet!
Even after landfall, Camille continued to wreak havoc in the United States as the storm moved up into Kentucky and then east into Virginia. The higher elevations of Virginia were devastated by flash floods after 27 inches of rain fell in only eight hours. Over 100 people died in the floods alone which brought the total death toll to 256.
Hurricane Agnes was a 1972 storm that proved that a hurricane does not have to be strong to cause extensive damage.
Agnes was a typical June storm that began life as a tropical depression over the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Drifting east toward Cuba and then north, it became a hurricane on June 18th in the southern Gulf of Mexico and made landfall near Apalachicola, Florida.
Agnes never did strengthen beyond a Category 1 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale. Most of the damage caused by the storm occurred after landfall. It moved slowly through Georgia and the Carolinas, dumping heavy rain in the southern Appalachians. Seventeen tornadoes were reported, mostly in Florida. Flooding was reported from North Carolina through Virginia.
From June 20th to 23rd, the low pressure system hardly moved as it lingered near the Pennsylvania/New York border. Over 15 inches of rain fell in this region and flooding, especially in the Susquehanna River basin, devastated many towns. Most of the damage was in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey, causing over $2.1 billion in damage.
Other historical hurricanes from earlier in the century include the 1900 hurricane that wiped out Galveston, Texas, the one which struck the Florida Keys in 1935, and the storm that swept through New England in 1938.
More recent storms include Hugo, which made landfall north of Charleston, South Carolina, and Andrew, which hit the U.S. mainland twice in 1992.
More detailed information on previous seasons.
September 15, 2003
East Coast Waits as Forecasters Warn of Dangerous Storm
By PATRICK HEALY and ANDREW C. REVKIN
With weather forecasters all but certain Hurricane Isabel will strike the central Atlantic coast late this week, state and local governments up and down the Eastern Seaboard are bracing for what is expected to be an extremely dangerous storm.
Computer models showed yesterday that a region from New Jersey to North Carolina was at highest risk for a direct hit, with Washington nearly in the dead center of the storm's projected path, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.
Michelle Mainelli, a meteorologist for the administration's National Hurricane Center, said the most recent forecasts showed tropical-storm-force winds lashing the coast of North Carolina early Thursday and hurricane-force winds of 71 miles per hour or more striking Maryland's Chesapeake Bay area later that day. The hurricane could veer as far north as New York and New England or as far south as South Carolina.
Weather experts acknowledged that such predictions were never ironclad. But for the first time in the eight days that federal officials have issued advisories about the storm, they said there was almost no chance it would miss the coast entirely.
"Everything points to a landfall," Ms. Mainelli said.
Forecasters said they expected Isabel to weaken slightly as it neared land, falling from a Category 5 or 4 storm, the most destructive classes of hurricane, to a Category 3.
Joe Bastardi, a hurricane expert for Accuweather.com, said that would not be a reason to relax.
"As it comes ashore, a storm like this can expand as it weakens, pulling more and more energy into it and becoming a much more extensive storm," Mr. Bastardi said.
The hurricane had sustained winds of 140 to 160 m.p.h. as it churned through the South Atlantic last week. Much of yesterday, it registered winds just shy of 155 m.p.h., which is the threshold for the Category 5 rating, as it roiled slowly westward, about 300 miles north of Puerto Rico.
The National Hurricane Center has not yet issued a hurricane warning, and no areas have been evacuated. But emergency management teams up and down the coast yesterday watched the storm's progress warily and went over emergency evacuation procedures.
Some states may reverse the traffic flows on major coastal roadways to accommodate what will probably be "a mass exodus," said Stephen Leatherman, director of the International Hurricane Research Center at Florida International University in Miami. Virginia's Interstate 64 and South Carolina's Interstate 26 will both flow only westward if a storm strikes, state officials said.
The decision to route all I-64 traffic west would have to come from the governor, said Bob Spieldenner of the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. The National Guard and the state police would help move traffic out of the area.
In North Carolina, official decisions about coastal-county evacuations were being held off until Monday or Tuesday. But some residents were already taking precautions.
Home-supply and grocery stores had a rush of customers over the weekend, with plywood, generators, batteries, flashlights and bottled water the top sellers.
"No more bottled water," read a sign on the door of a Roanoke Island grocery store this afternoon.
Gordon Rainey of Nags Head said he planned to get his family off the island. "This is a severe storm," Mr. Rainey said. "I'll ride out anything under 100 miles per hour, but sustained winds of 160 miles per hour will wipe this island clean. We're not prepared for this."
Delaware emergency management officials were concerned about Isabel's potential impact on this weekend's Nascar races at Dover International Speedway and the 200,000 fans — more than six times the population of Dover — expected to arrive for the races.
Teleconferences will update emergency, state and local government authorities on a regular basis, said Jamie Turner, director of Delaware's Emergency Management Agency. If it appears that hurricane-force winds will hit the area, he said, advisories will be issued as early as possible to give people time to get their belongings together and leave the area.
In New Jersey, a few shoppers were already buying generators and plywood at the Home Depot in Absecon, across the harbor from Atlantic City. But with sunny weather over much of the state on Sunday, the idea of a major storm seemed an ocean away to most residents.
"We had a couple of people," said the store's manager, Pete Giordano. "There's no mad rush or anything."
Dr. Leatherman of the International Hurricane Research Center said more people seemed to be preparing for a brush with Hurricane Isabel than they did in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd, which crashed into the Carolina coast. He said he had heard reports that hardware stores were running out of plywood.
"People are taking this one pretty seriously," Dr. Leatherman said. "It's almost the perfect hurricane. It's like a top out there turning 160 m.p.h. round and round."
In the Hamptons, where vacationers are enjoying the last moments of summer, store shelves are depleted of batteries and conversations have turned to the threat of a hurricane, said Sam Swint, a Southampton resident.
Mr. Swint, who said he planned to spend Wednesday and Thursday staking down his smaller trees and clearing his yard of debris, said it had been a decade since a hurricane struck Long Island. People, he said, were eyeing Isabel with a gambler's eye.
"We're somewhat due, to say the least," he said.
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Category Five Hurricane:
Winds greater than 155 mph (135 kt or 249 km/hr). Storm surge generally greater than 18 ft above normal.
Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away.
All shrubs, trees, and signs blown down.
Complete destruction of mobile homes.
Severe and extensive window and door damage.
Low-lying escape routes are cut by rising water 3-5 hours before arrival of the center of the hurricane.
Major damage to lower floors of all structures located less than 15 ft above sea level and within 500 yards of the shoreline.
Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5-10 miles (8-16 km) of the shoreline may be required. Only 3 Category Five Hurricanes have made landfall in the United States since records began: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Andrew in August, 1992.
[Dont tell me they did'nt know what was coming!]
The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane struck the Florida Keys with a minimum pressure of 892 mb--the lowest pressure ever observed in the United States.
Hurricane Camille struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast causing a 25-foot storm surge, which inundated Pass Christian.
Hurricane Andrew of 1992 made landfall over southern Miami-Dade County, Florida causing 26.5 billion dollars in losses--the costliest hurricane on record.
In addition, Hurricane Gilbert of 1988 was a Category Five hurricane at peak intensity and is the strongest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record with a minimum pressure of 888 mb.
I gathered this in a 5 second Google search. Clearly Catagory 5 can hardly be called "unexpected".
"They" knew exactly what was going to happen and did'nt even pre-position equipment and personal before the storm for a rapid rescue and clean up.
I can honestly say after 10 years of watching their shananigans...this episode most CLEARLY shows manipulation of the people for their own ends. It is stark and in your face. This has got to be part of Bush's setup over and above bringing in martial law.
I watched last night that right wing jockey on "Newshour" blast Bush to peices over this. Usually, Bush could be caught in public stealing a childs lollipop and he would defend him. Ironically it was the Lefty sook who was trying to defend Bush in some measure. Some sort of fix is in.
[size=medium]\"The Office\" is the greatest comedy...ever. [/size]