The Destructive 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The 2017 hurricane season is one for the record books. The National Hurricane Center has described it as an “extremely active season,” for it has produced more major hurricanes than any season since 2005. There have so far been 15 named storms – and the season doesn’t end until November 30.

A storm is a weather event in which the wind speed exceeds 39 miles per hour (mph). A storm becomes a hurricane when its wind speed exceeds 74 mph. Hurricanes, as many people now know, are further categorized by the Saffir-Simpson Wind Scale that ranks hurricanes by their sustained wind speed from Category 1 to Category 5. A major hurricane is Category 3 or above.

So far, there have been ten hurricanes, with the first, Franklin, forming on August 7. Six of those ten, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Lee, Maria and Ophelia were major hurricanes.

Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, was the first major hurricane of the season, and it made landfall on August 25 near Corpus Christie, Texas. It then went back into the Gulf Coast, where it picked up a lot more moisture. Harvey then made a second landfall near Louisiana’s border and dumped over four feet of rain on Houston and the surrounding area. Harvey is thus the worst rainfall disaster in US history. Most of the 82 people who perished had died trying to escape the flooding.

Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Katia all developed in the Atlantic basin at more or less the same time. The last season to have three simultaneous hurricanes was 2010. The current season, however, stepped up its game by being the first recorded to have two Category 4+ hurricanes developing together. It set another record by having three major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Jose) in a row.

Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, was one of the most powerful storms in history with a sustained windspeed of 185. After thrashing several Caribbean islands, it made landfall on Florida on September 10 as a Category 4 storm. It plowed through the entire state and did not dissipate until reaching Georgia. Roughly 95 of the buildings on the islands Barbuda and St. Martin were destroyed.

Hurricane Jose, a Category 4 storm, never made landfall. Instead, it tore up along the US East Coast bringing powerful winds, heavy rain and dangerous surf.

Hurricane Katia was the weakest of the trio of hurricanes and made landfall on Mexico as a Category 1 storm on September 8. Three people were still killed.

Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 storm, demolished many of the same Caribbean islands that had been struck by Irma a few weeks earlier. It destroyed Puerto Rico’s electric grid leaving the entire island without power.

The most recent major hurricane, Ophelia, was a Category 3 storm that brushed by Spain, stirring up wildfires, before making landfall on Ireland on October 16. The last time an equally powerful hurricane hit Ireland was in 1961.

Most Devastating Hurricanes in American History

Natural disasters are a force against which we are all but powerless. The best military in the world can’t defend against an earthquake, and all the planning and preparation in the world can’t stop the devastation rendered by a tornado. When it comes to these naturally occurring phenomena, we as a species and as a society are at the mercy of the power of Mother Nature. All that we can do in their aftermath is pick ourselves up and try to help one another the best way that we’re able.

Texas is currently experiencing this aftermath following the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, which started on August 25, 2017. It has widely been recognized as one of the largest disasters to take place on American soil and is the costliest, estimating damage costs at nearly $180 billion. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, let’s take a look back to the most devastating hurricanes faced by the United States over the past century.

Superstorm Sandy • 2012

In late October of 2012, the eastern half of the United States was hit with one of the costliest storms ever to hit the nation. Of the 50 states, 24 were affected by this Category 3 storm which destroyed more than 650,000 homes and rendered over $50 billion worth of damage while cutting power to 8.5 million people in the Northeastern United States. Just over a month after the hurricane, the 12-12-12: Concert for Sandy Relief raised money for disaster relief, and the United States government passed a bill to provide $60 billion in aid to the areas affected by the storm.

Hurricane Katrina • 2005

In 2005, the Southeastern United States was hit with a storm whose devastation is still being felt over a decade later. While the winds alone wreaked catastrophic damage, the storm surge, peaking at 28 feet in some parts of Mississippi, was what really hurt the area alongside the levees and floodwalls that broke in New Orleans. Until Hurricane Harvey, this was the costliest storm, flooding more than 80% of New Orleans and costing approximately $108 billion in damaged property.

Hurricane Charley • 2004

This Category 4 storm hit ground in Southern Florida during August of 2004. The storm was so bad that Florida Governor Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency for the residents of Florida and, for only the second time in history that a park at Disney World was closed due to a hurricane. All told, the hurricane caused about $15.1 billion worth of damage, making it one of the costlier storms to affect the country.