Peaceful From Above:
Hurricane Katrina Dominates the Gulf 28 August 2005
Original Oil Painting by Keith C. Heidorn
With the official ending of the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season on November 30th, residents of the Atlantic basin, which includes the Carribean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, are breathing a sigh of relief and hopes that the season is actually over. On the penultimate day of the season, Tropical Storm Epsilon formed in the central Atlantic just north of 30oN. Epsilon strengthened to hurricane status on December 2 but the storm did not threaten land or the island of Bermuda. Hurricane Epsilon reached a maximum sustained windspeed of 80 mph, with hurricane strength winds persisting for 5 days. Epsilon was only the 6th December hurricane ever recorded.
Addendum: When I posted this piece, I thought the 2005 Hurricane Season was over. But Momma Nature always has a surprise up her sleeve, and the last one of 2005 was a New Year's Eve Atlantic tropical storm. Named Zeta, it formed over the eastern Atlantic west of the Azores. Zeta , with top sustained winds near 50 mph (80 km/h), was the 27th named storm of a record-breaking hurricane season. Zeta was still storming when 2006 was rung in. The only previous end-of-year storm was Hurricane Alice which became both the latest and the earliest hurricane on record in the Atlantic when it became a hurricane on December 31, 1954 and battered the Leeward Islands with winds of 85 mph (136 km/h) on January 1, 1955.
Zeta's formation brings the total of named Atlantic storms to 27, making 2005 the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record. The previous record of recognized storms in a season was 21 in 1933. The season also reported 30 tropical depressions forming in the basin, a record for a season (at least since satellite observations became available). Likely the major reason for the increase in storm numbers is a known cycle in the number of Atlantic tropical storms that usually lasts two to three decades. The current high-storm cycle began in 1995, ending a three-decade period with relatively fewer storms each season. As a result, the current cycle will be the first high cycle occurring with full satellite observation technology available to detect storms within the basin.
Well...now up that number of storms to 28. The National Hurricane Center reviewed the weather observations and have added a previously unnamed storm that had a brief life in early October to the list. The storm, which meandered around the Azore Islands west of Portugal, was initially considered a subtropical storm because it formed far from normal tropical waters. On further analysis, the storm, whose winds peaked around 52 mph (83 km/h), had tropical characteristics and should have been counted as a tropical storm.
Furthermore, upon further analysis, Cindy has been upgraded to a hurricane.
Tropical weather systems receive a name when storm winds sustained winds reach 39 mph (62 km/h) and reach hurricane force when the sustained winds reaches 74 mph (118 km/h). Among the landmarks of this record setting Atlantic hurricane season include (with all the after-season alterations, I have endeavoured to update this list, but if it contains errors, I apologize in advance):
28 named storms an average year would have eleven. Previous record: 21 in 1933.
15 hurricanes the previous record was 12 in 1969. The average is six.
5 landfalling major hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin: Previous record: Four in 2004.
11 hurricanes making landfall on North and Central America (combined) in a season. Previous record: 10 in 1933.
4 major hurricanes hitting the US. A major hurricane has winds greater than 111 mph (178 km/h). Previous record: Three in 1893, 1909, 1933, 1954, and 2004.
9 tropical cyclones affecting the US. Previous record: 8 in 1933.
4 Category 5 intensity hurricanes sustained winds topping 155 mph (248 km/h). The previous record was two, in 1960 and 1961.
Unfortunately, the 2005 Hurricane Season will be remembered as a deadly season, the deadliest in the Atlantic since 1780 (2800-3000 estimated deaths) and the deadliest US hurricane season since 1928 with 1300-1400 lives lost. Hurricane Katrina ranks as the third deadliest hurricane in US history.
While many hurricane season records were set in 2005, a few still remain. The season fell one storm short of equalling the season records for most major hurricanes (8 in 1950) and most tropical storms to hit the US (8 in 1916, 2004). The season fell ten days short for the most "named-storm" days (136 in 1933.) There were eight landfalling hurricane in 2005, one fewer than in 1933 and thirteen landfalling tropical storms (record 17 in 1933).
Hurricane Wilma's maximum recorded wind speed (185 mph) tied it with Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 for the third spot alltime behind 190 mph speed registered by Hurricane Camille (1969) and Hurricane Allen (1980).
When Hurrican Vince, one of the smallest (in diameter) hurricanes ever, formed on 9 October, it became the farthest north tropical storm (within the period of records) in the Atlantic Basin. Later in the day, it became the farthest east Atlantic hurricane to ever arise. Its birth and subsequent path gave Vince a number of other notable events: The first (pure) tropical depression to hit the Iberian Peninsula, (Spain), Mainland Europe, and the Eastern Hemisphere (excluding Great Britain). It was also the farthest east a tropical storm and a hurricane has ever been recorded.
Later in the seasons, Tropical Storm Delta became the first known tropical storm to ever hit Africa (Morocco) and the Canary Islands and to cause death on the Canary Islands.
With Zeta's formation, the storm capped the season with the latest tropical storm and hurricane to form (tying Alice in 1954/5). But a couple early-season "stormmarks" were also set in 2005. Hurricane Dennis was the earliest Category 4 storm to ever form, 7 July; and Hurricane Emily became the earliest Category 5 storm to form, doing so on 16 July.
Hurricane Rita Image courtesy of NOAA, US Department of Commerce
The season will be most known for Hurricane Katrina, the most devastating hurricane to hit the United States in many decades, and the third most intense (based on minimum pressure 918 mb) at landfall. Katrina’s lowest pressure central pressure dropped to 902 mb (at the time, the fourth lowest pressure ever measured in the Atlantic basin). Without doubt, Katrina will be the most costly when all ledgers are closed. The present estimate of $75-$100 billion falls just short of the adjusted total of $100 billion for the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926. Katrina became the first hurricane to render a major US city uninhabitable. The swath of its destruction at landfall also was the greatest in US history at 90,000 square miles (23.3 million hectares).
As if Katrina were not enough, Hurricanes Rita and Wilma would have been landmark hurricanes in any other year. The now forgotten Hurricane Dennis fell just shy of the Category Five level (maximum sustained winds 150 mph [240 km/h]) but still caused over $2 billion in damages.
Other individual storm records also fell during 2005. Hurricane Wilma, only the third Category 5 storm to form in the Basin in October, registered the lowest central pressure in the Atlantic Basin with a reading of 882mb at noon on 19 October. To reach that pressure, Wilma experienced the most rapid 24-hour intensification ever observed (globally) of 97mb. Wilma also had the smallest eye (2 nautical miles) for any Category 5 storm so observed.
For the record, the named storms during the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season are (dates indicate life from first to last tropical storm or greater status):
Tropical Storm Arlene (Jun 8-13)
Tropical Storm Bret (Jun 28-29)
Hurricane Cindy (Jul 3-7)
Hurricane Dennis (Jul 4-12)
Hurricane Emily (Jul 11-21)
Tropical Storm Franklin (Jul 21-29)
Tropical Storm Gert (Jul 23-25)
Tropical Storm Harvey (Aug 3-8)
Hurricane Irene (Aug 7-18)
Tropical Storm Jose (Aug 22-23)
Hurricane Katrina (Aug 23-30)
Tropical Storm Lee (Aug 31-Sep 1)
Hurricane Maria (Sep 2-10)
Hurricane Nate (Sep 5-10)
Hurricane Ophelia (Sep 7-18)
Hurricane Phillipe (Sep 17-23)
Hurricane Rita (Sep 18-24)
Hurricane Stan (Oct 2-5)
Tropical Storm - Unnamed (Oct 4-5)
Tropical Storm Tammy (Oct 5-6 )
Hurricane Vince (Oct 9-11 )
Hurricane Wilma (Oct 17-25)
Tropical Storm Alpha (Oct 22-24)
Hurricane Beta (Oct 27-31)
Tropical Storm Gamma (Nov 18-20)
Tropical Storm Delta (Nov 23-28)
Hurricane Epsilon (Nov 29-Dec 8)
Tropical Storm Zeta (Dec 30 - Jan 6, 2006)
For a map showing the NHC tracks of the 2005 storms, click here.
Storm Surge Damage from Hurricane Katrina
photo courtesy Dr. John Lipscomb, Jr., P.Eng.
2005 Atlantic Ocean Tropical Cyclones (Data table courtesy US National Climatic Data Center, 2005, updated April 2006)