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Date of Issue: December 01, 2005

'Absolutely' the worst hurricane season on record

Hurricane pic
Hurricane pic
Absolutes are always fraught with journalistic terror, but the 2005 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season warrants such phrases.

Most intense.

Most costly.

Most.

It was not a pretty year, although Anna Maria Island was spared again from the wrath of the most-named tropical storms ever to make an appearance in our part of the world in one six-month season.

This season has so far seen 25 tropical storms, making it the most active season on record. It has also seen 13 hurricanes - the most hurricanes to form in a single season. Of these, seven have been major hurricanes, one short of the 1950 season's record for major storms.

And it's the first time ever that all the “names” have been used up in either the Atlantic or Pacific for hurricanes, four-fold - we've had to deal with Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, some remnants of which are probably still swirling toward Spain as you read this.

It was a helluva year.

The information for this article comes in a large part from Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. For more information, go to www.wikipedia.org and search for hurricanes 2005.

Some more records

Although Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were the most destructive storms to hit the United States in 2005, Hurricane Wilma set a record of its own as the most intense hurricane ever charted in the Atlantic basin.

On Oct. 18, Wilma's central pressure was measured at 882 millibars, the lowest ever posted.

Also in the running were Hurricane Katrina as the fourth most-intense Atlantic hurricane on record (currently sixth) when the storm's central pressure dropped to 902 mb on Aug. 28, and Hurricane Rita as No. 3 and the most intense hurricane on record in the Gulf of Mexico after reaching a pressure reading of 897 mb Sept. 21.

Katrina was the third most intense hurricane on record to make landfall in the United States in terms of pressure, following the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Oh, and Katrina, Rita and Wilma were the three most intense storms ever in a single Atlantic hurricane season. And that trio recorded the first time that three Category 5 storms were recorded in a single season - ever.

And then there were Hurricanes Dennis and Emily, both in July, which constituted the two strongest storms on record in July.

Remember Hurricane Vince? Probably not, because we were otherwise occupied, but Vince made records as the storm that formed the farthest north and east of any tropical storm in the Atlantic, and the first storm to make landfall in Spain and mainland Europe.

By the numbers

Just so there's some perspective - if there can ever be a perspective after the last two years of back-to-back hurricane hell in the Atlantic - the season average is about 10 named storms, with six of them being hurricanes and two of them being classed as severe.

This year saw 25 named storms, 13 of them becoming hurricanes and seven of them being severe. By storm, or hurricane, 2005 included:

Tropical Storm Arlene

On June 8, a depression formed off Hondurus and, the next day, was upgraded to Tropical Storm Arlene. It headed north, spreading tropical-storm force winds and heavy rains to the Cayman Islands and Cuba. It entered the Gulf of Mexico on the morning of June 10, and the storm strengthened to just under hurricane strength.

Arlene made landfall just west of Pensacola on the afternoon of June 11. Arlene was the most intense landfalling June storm since Hurricane Allison hit the eastern Panhandle in 1995.

The only death attributed to Arlene was a woman caught in riptide at Miami Beach.

Tropical Storm Bret

An area of disturbed weather in the Bay of Campeche developed into Tropical Storm Bret June 28, the first time that two tropical storms developed in June in nine years.

The storm made landfall in Mexico June 29 as a weak tropical storm. It continued inland, producing heavy rain over Veracruz, and dissipating June 29.

Hundreds of homes were damaged, and several towns severely flooded. The only reported fatalities were the two occupants of a car that was swept away by floodwaters.

Tropical Storm Cindy

On July 3, a tropical wave formed in the northwest Caribbean Sea. After fluctuations, it became Tropical Storm Cindy July 5 and headed north in the Gulf of Mexico, eventually making landfall near Grand Isle, La.

The storm caused heavy rainfall and tornados in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and even Maryland.

Three deaths were attributed to Cindy - two in Georgia and another in Alabama.

Hurricane Dennis

The season's fourth tropical depression formed in the southeastern Caribbean July 4, became Tropical Storm Dennis the next day and a hurricane July 6 as it moved west-northwest toward the southern coast of Hispaniola. Just south of Cuba, Dennis reached its peak as the strongest recorded Atlantic storm to form before August. On July 8, Dennis passed over Cuba close to Havana. It regained status as a Category 4 storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and made landfall as a Category 3 storm southeast of Pensacola July 9-10.

Dennis claimed at least 70 lives. Total damages are estimated at $5-$9 billion USD.

Hurricane Emily

Formed in the Lesser Antilles July 11, the storm quickly became Hurricane Emily and struck Grenada July 11 as a Category 1 storm. Passing over the island, it eventually reached Category 4 strength July 15. It passed south of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, making landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula July 18. Emily made its second landfall in rural northeast Mexico near Boca Madre, Tamaulipas, as a Category 3 storm.

Emily caused at least 14 deaths.

Tropical Storm Franklin

Tropical Storm Franklin formed south of the Bahamas July 21 and headed north, then northeast over the Atlantic, becoming disorganized by July 24 under the effects of shear and drier air. It moved erratically, sometimes wobbling in place, inching closer to Bermuda while barely remaining a tropical storm, eventually paralleling the East Coast of the United States and strengthening to near hurricane strength before fizzling out in the North Atlantic.

Tropical Storm Gert

A tropical depression organized July 23 in the Bay of Campeche and became upgraded to Tropical Storm Gert early the next day. It made landfall on the coast of Mexico south of Tampico late on July 24. It moved inland over central Mexico before dissipating on July 25 in roughly the same area as Hurricane Emily just four days earlier and caused major evacuations.

Tropical Storm Harvey

A lingering tropical wave due southwest of Bermuda eventually turned into a depression Aug. 2, and Tropical Storm Harvey the next day. It passed south of Bermuda Aug. 4, soaking the island but causing little damage and eventually dissipating.

Hurricane Irene

In a classic hurricane pattern, what would eventually become Hurricane Irene formed west of the Cape Verde Islands Aug. 4. Irene cycled between apparent re-intensification and significant weakening, becoming disorganized in the early morning of Aug. 10, but strengthening to a Category 1 hurricane on Aug. 14. The storm veered north and dissipated off the coast of Newfoundland, never posing a threat to land.

Tropical Storm Jose

Tropical Storm Jose formed in the Gulf of Mexico and achieved a maximum wind strength of 50 mph before it made landfall in Mexico on Aug. 23. It then rapidly weakened and soon dissipated as it moved inland. While drenching Mexico's Gulf coast, Jose forced some 25,000 residents from their homes in Veracruz. Eight deaths were attributed to Jose's heavy rains in Oaxaca.

Hurricane Katrina

There are arguments made that what would become the costliest hurricane on record had its genesis in a tropical depression that formed east of the Lesser Antilles Aug. 13, then somewhat dissipated. Nonetheless, an area of disturbed weather developed Aug. 23 over the Bahamas and evolved into a tropical storm and eventually Hurricane Katrina Aug. 25, making landfall later that day in South Florida and emerging into the Gulf of Mexico. Katrina rapidly intensified to Category 5 status on the morning of Aug. 28, weakening to Category 4 status as it turned north to hit southeastern Louisiana. Hours later, it crossed Breton Sound and made its third and final landfall as a Category 3 hurricane near Pearlington, Miss.

The Mississippi and Alabama coastlines suffered catastrophic damage from the storm's 30-foot storm surge. New Orleans escaped the worst damage from the storm, but levees along the Intercoastal Canal and 17th Street Canal ultimately were breached by storm surge, flooding about 80 percent of the city. To date, 1,325 people have been confirmed dead across five U.S. states. Damage estimates from Katrina are expected to reach more than $100 billion.

Tropical Storm Lee

What would become Tropical Storm Lee formed east of the Lesser Antilles Aug. 28. It fluctuated in strength, at only one time reaching tropical storm-force winds, and eventually dissipated Sept. 1, never posing a threat to land.

Hurricane Maria

Tropical Depression 14 formed well east of the Leeward Islands on Sept. 1, at one point reaching Category 3 strength before it dropped to tropical storm-force, never threatening land as it moved north in the Atlantic, although the remnants of the storm triggered a landslide in Norway that killed one person.

Hurricane Nate

Tropical Storm Nate formed south of Bermuda Sept. 5, becoming a hurricane two days later. It passed south of the island, causing little damage, and dissipated in the central Atlantic. The storm did delay delivery of supplies from Canada to victims of Katrina in the North Gulf, though.

Hurricane Ophelia

Formed in the northern Bahamas, Hurricane Ophelia gained its name Sept. 8. It stalled off the coast of north Florida for two days, then moved slowly toward North Carolina. It never made landfall, but caused extensive damage to the Outer Banks and Cape Fear as it moved toward Nova Scotia and eventually dissipated.

Hurricane Philippe

Beginning life as a tropical wave, Hurricane Philippe became a hurricane Sept. 18. It eventually dissipated Sept. 23 south of Bermuda.

Hurricane Rita

What would become the season's 18th tropical depression formed over the Turks and Caicos Islands Sept. 18, becoming a hurricane two days later. It reached Category 2 status as it moved south of the Florida Keys into the Gulf, and became a Category 5 storm. Rita made landfall near the Texas/Louisiana border on Sept. 24.

Major flooding was reported in Port Arthur and Beaumont, Texas. Cameron and Calcasieu Parishes in Louisiana were devastated. Offshore oil platforms throughout Rita's path also suffered significant damage.

Six people were confirmed dead from Rita's direct effects, and total insured damage from the storm is estimated at $8 billion. Over 100 indirect deaths have been reported.

Hurricane Stan

Tropical Storm Stan formed Oct. 2 in the Gulf of Mexico, and made landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula, weakening to a tropical depression, but upon reemerging into the Bay of Campeche strengthened into a hurricane. Stan made landfall Oct. 4 on the east coast of Mexico as a Category 1 hurricane.

Stan was associated with a large area of loosely organized but very heavy rain activity over Mexico and Central America. Torrential rainfall caused catastrophic flooding and mudslides, which were responsible for at least 1,153 deaths in six countries; 1,036 of these casualties occurred in Guatemala alone.

Tropical Storm Tammy

Tropical Storm Tammy formed off Florida's east coast Oct. 5 and made landfall near Jacksonville late that same evening. Tammy then moved rapidly inland across southern Georgia and Alabama before dissipating into a remnant low that drifted south into the Gulf of Mexico.

Hurricane Vince

Tropical Storm Vince was named Oct. 9 in the east Atlantic east-southeast of the Azores, and was upgraded to a hurricane later that day. It briefly reached hurricane status and is thought to be the only storm to have developed so far north and east in the Atlantic. It made landfall in Spain and caused minor damage.

Hurricane Wilma

The tropical depression that would eventually become Hurricane Wilma developed southwest of Jamaica on Oct. 15, became a hurricane Oct. 18 and reached a record-setting pressure of 882 millibars by Oct. 19 as a Category 5 storm.

Wilma weakened slightly to a Category 4 before hitting the Yucatan coast. It drifted over the peninsula, bringing heavy rain and wind to an area hit by Hurricane Emily only three months before. The storm then moved quickly across southern Florida on Oct. 24 as a Category 3 storm before racing northeastward and becoming extratropical.

Wilma caused 60 deaths and billions of dollars in damages.

Tropical Storm Alpha

This storm developed in the eastern Caribbean Sea Oct. 22, moving northwestward as a tropical storm and making landfall in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Alpha, as the 22nd named storm of the season, broke the record of the most storms named in one season in the Atlantic and was the first such storm to force forecasters to use the Greek alphabet for naming storms.

A total of 26 people have been reported dead because of Tropical Storm Alpha.

Hurricane Beta

Formed off the east coast of Costa Rica Oct. 26, what would become Hurricane Beta eventually reached Category 3 status as it made landfall on the coast of Nicaragua. There were reports of extensive damage to homes and a loss of communications.

Tropical Storm Gamma

Late on Nov. 13, after nearly two weeks of inactivity, a tropical depression formed west of the Lesser Antilles. Heavy rainfall caused mudslides, killing 32 people. Wind shear prevented further development of the system and it dissipated south of Jamaica.

Parts of the storm reformed, though, and Tropical Storm Gamma was named Nov. 18. The storm made landfall in Honduras, killing 32 people there.

Tropical Storm Delta

Tropical Storm Delta formed with tropical-storm-force winds on Nov. 23, when a strong non-tropical low near the Azores slowly drifted southward and attained tropical characteristics while entering increasingly warmer waters. The storm was never a threat to land as it moved toward the northern Atlantic.

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