By Thomas Sellers Jr.
There’s summer, winter, spring, fall and hurricane season. This year’s Atlantic hurricane season began on May 20 and is scheduled to come to a conclusion November 30. But the peak of hurricane season is typically from late August to the middle of October.
So what qualifies as a hurricane? A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds above 74 miles per hour. These storms of the ocean occur all over the world, but under different names. Closer to the United States in the Western Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans, they are called hurricanes.
If you’re near the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, they are called cyclones. And head over to the Western Pacific, they are called typhoons.
While cyclones and typhoons rarely hit our media radar in the United States, we are familiar with the long history of hurricanes that have devastated places like Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, South Carolina and even New York.
The latest storm to impact the States was Hurricane Dorian. It didn’t live up to the legacy of the such destructive hurricanes like 1900’s Galveston Hurricane, the 1935 Labor Day hurricane or 1965’s Hurricane Betsy.
In my lifetime there have been quite a few notable storms like Gilbert, Floyd, Mitch, Charley, Jeanne, Wilma and Ike. This week’s Best Sellers’ List is going to rank the most impactful storms of my lifetime from 1981 to 2019.
10. Irma 2017
The year of the hurricane was 2017 with several storms crashing into the United States. Making her impact felt was Irma with some of the strongest wind speeds since Wilma. Irma was a Category 5 hurricane when it first his Leeward Islands. It managed to downgrade to a level 4 by the time it hit Florida.
Most of Irma’s damage was done to places like Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. There was a total of 134 deaths caused by the storm. Irma was the fourth costliest Atlantic hurricane at $77.2 billion in damage.
9. Rita 2005
What a second act this storm turned out to be. Rita followed a more famous hurricane during the summer of 2005 in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Rita went down as the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Rita led to 120 deaths during her reign of terror Sept. 18-26.
Rita was a Category 5 story that started near Europe and Cuba. Then the storm made national headlines with damage to Florida and Texas.
It’s hard to truly rank the value of Rita’s impact on the areas it hit. On record, Rita is credited with $18.5 billion in damages. The city that had the biggest black eye from this storm was Houston. Rita led to massive floods in Louisiana.
When it was all said and done, Rita would go down in history as a vice president of hurricanes in 2005.
8. Michael 2018
The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the U.S. in 26 years was Michael. While Michael was here, he caused $25.1 billion in damages as the third-most intense Atlantic storm. Michael joined the like of the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969.
Michael shock up Mexico and Cuba before slamming into Florida, Georgia and more.
Michael reached a peak of 160 mph. From Oct. 6-16, Michael claimed more than 70 lives.
7. Harvey 2017
Let’s head back to 2017 and get acquainted with this devastating storm — Hurricane Harvey. Although Harvey took fewer lives than Irma with just 68, Harvey hit landfall about two weeks prior to Irma on Aug. 17. By Sept. 3, Harvey was responsible for $125 billion in damages to Texas, Louisiana, Belize, Nicaragua, Honduras and more.
Harvey tied Hurricane Katrina as the costliest ocean storm using a method of heavy rainfall leading to flooding throughout Houston and Southeastern Texas.
6. Sandy 2012
Who knew states like New Jersey and New York could be hit by a hurricane?
Back in 2012, watching Hurricane Sandy travel up along the Atlantic was eyeopening to me. In my 31 years of life, I didn’t remember seeing a storm go that far North. I just thought hurricanes lost power and energy after getting pass North Carolina.
But Sandy made me a believer that any state on the coast of an ocean is in danger of a hurricane. Hurricane Sandy was the strongest storm of 2012 claiming 285 lives. In the nearly $70 billion of damage, Sandy was a Category 3 storm that started in Cuba and managed to hit as far as Maine.
Sandy affected 24 states in the Union.
From Oct. 22-29, Sandy was on the forefront of several U.S. Americans’ conscience. Sandy killed 42 people in the state of New York. New Jersey suffered 12 deaths.
Sandy hit places not familiar with hurricanes. It struck during a time when we think the storms are over and we’ll start looking forward to the next year.
5. Ivan 2004
In 2004, Ivan was terrible to the tune of $26.1 billion. From almost the entire month of September, Ivan reigned over the ocean like a dictator. Hurricane Ivan was a large, long-living Cape Verde storm that shattered the Caribbean and United States.
Ivan killed 123 people from Sept. 2-24. It was a Category 3 and 5 storm while hitting locations like Florida, Jamaica, Alabama, Grenada, Cuba and more.
4. Maria 2017
What storm was the standard-setter of 2017. Maria was the runaway most devastating storm during the Year of the Hurricane. To put the impact of Maria in prospective, 3,057 deaths caused by the storm throughout Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and United States.
From Sept. 16- Oct. 2, Hurricane Maria was a storm reaching Category 5 status. Maria was weaken by the time she hit the United States. But the major damage was already done to places like the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Maria was the most deadliest Atlantic hurricane since 1998’s Mitch. Maria appeared to build off the momentum of predecessors like Irma and Harvey.
3. Andrew 1992
The first hurricane I remembered by name was Andrew when I was 11 years old. Hurricane Andrew was one of the most destructive storms ever. The Category 5 Atlantic hurricane struck the Bahamas, Florida and Louisiana in August 1992.
For 12 days, Andrew set records for the time in damage while taking 65 lives. Today Andrew ranks as the eighth-costliest Atlantic hurricane at $27.3 billion.
When Andrew hit land, it was operating at 165 mph. I remember seeing people evacuate by boarding up their homes. It made an impact on my soul seeing fellow Americans having to escape their everyday lives.
Until Andrew, I thought the term hurricanes applied to a football team from South Florida I didn’t like. I quickly learned hurricanes are a real part of life in places like Florida.
In parts of South Florida, Andrew produced severe winds of 177 mph. In Florida, Andrew killed 44 and left a record $25 billion in damage. It would be another 13 years before a hurricane made that type of emotional impact on me.
2. Katrina 2005
The hurricane that directly proceeded Rita and changed the way we address storm warnings, evacuate and cover such situations.
Hurricane Katrina was here for a short time from Aug. 23-31. The biggest place of impact was New Orleans and the storm took 1,833 lives. Katrina went down as the costliest Atlantic hurricane of all time at $125 billion.
One word to describe this storm is catastrophic. Katrina was the focal point of the national media for the rest of 2005 because of recovery efforts, government decisions, survivors moving and Rita following with more devastation.
Katrina did enough damage leading to more than 50 breaches in surge protection levees surrounding New Orleans. Water poured into the Crescent City and a landmark like the Superdome became a stadium of horror.
A city known for Madri Gras, good times and parties was totally serious trying to survive water pouring into a bowl. The water lingered for weeks in those parishes.
Meanwhile, I got new neighbors here in Memphis. I saw so many license plates with Louisiana written on them. New students entered schools across the South hailing from New Orleans.
I wrote about five stories in relation to Katrina meeting people who had to start a new life far away from home.
Katrina was the first hurricane I could directly touch those who were affected.
1. Hugo 1989
It’s been 30 years since the nightmare that was real. I didn’t realize Hurricane Hugo was a actual event until 1995. I thought those images I watched on the nightly news were just special effects from a movie. It was about the time Hurricane Erin was ripping up the Atlantic and the new stations used file footage of Hugo.
I turned to my mom, “That was real? Hurricane Hugo really happened?”
She and the news anchors remained me of the damage from the legendary Hugo. Sept. 10-25, Hurricane Hugo took over Guadeloupe, St. Croix, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, North Carolina and more.
Just think, back in 1989 Hugo cost $10.3 billion in damages. That number isn’t inflated. Hugo ushered in these modern day hurricanes with lasting power. Hugo was the first to pick up significant strength over time to do maximum damage. It’s amazing only 61 lives were lost during Hugo’s stay.
Hugo had another major impact on society that will be felt forever. He taught us that a hurricane should be taken seriously and be prepared to change you life for several days to several weeks.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.