2005's Hurricane Season Was "Unprecedented"

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
November 29, 2005

Meteorologists are describing the 2005 hurricane season with one word: unprecedented.

"Absolutely, as far as we know, this was unprecedented," said Keith Blackwell, a researcher at the University of South Alabama's Coastal Weather Research Center in Mobile.

There's a long list of reasons why this hurricane season, which ends Wednesday, will be regarded as one for the ages:

• The 26 named storms that formed made it the most active season on record. The previous record of 21 storms was set in 1933.

• The 2005 season also produced new records for the most hurricanes (13) and the most "major" hurricanes (7), ranking as Category Three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale. The scale rates hurricanes from one to five according to wind speeds and potential for causing damage.

• Four major hurricanes made landfall in the U.S., a new record.

• Five storms formed in July, a new record for that month. One of those storms—Hurricane Dennis—was the most powerful July storm on record.

• Three hurricanes—Katrina, Rita, and Wilma—reached Category Five status on the Saffir-Simpson scale. That's also a new record.

• Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, essentially destroyed New Orleans with a storm surge that flooded the city and made much of it uninhabitable. More than 1,300 people were killed by the hurricane, most of them in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

• Hurricane Wilma in October became the strongest hurricane known to have formed in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

• Hurricane Vince, which also formed in October, became the first known tropical storm to strike Spain and Portugal.

• The cost of damages caused by 2005's storms is still being tabulated, but it will dwarf all previous seasonal totals. The insured losses probably will total at least 75 billion U.S. dollars, according to experts. Researcher Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University said the total tab could be as much as 200 billion U.S. dollars, a figure he says is "just mind-boggling."

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