Notable October Hurricanes Demonstrate the Season is Far From Over

Posted: October 12, 2021 11:11 am

As the Third-Busiest Month for Hurricane Activity, Keep Your Guard Up Over October

Although it has been fairly quiet in the tropics over the last few weeks, it certainly does not mean that the US is out of the woods when it comes to hurricane activity. Keep in mind that the official Atlantic hurricane season does not end until November 30, leaving plenty of time for more named storms to develop and threaten the US coastline. In addition, October is actually the third-busiest month of the year for tropical weather, behind August and September.

Here are a few of the most notable hurricanes to strike the US during the month of October.

Hurricane Wilma – 2005

Hurricane Wilma carries a number of impressive records, including its intensification from a Category 1 storm to a Category 5 monster in just 24 hours. The storm also is the record-holder for the lowest pressure on the books. Wilma formed on October 16, surviving 11 days until October 27.

Wilma was responsible for 62 fatalities, with over 20 of these happening in the US. The hurricane affected a number of areas, including many of the islands of the Caribbean and Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. After picking up strength again in the Gulf of Mexico, Wilma made a sharp turn to the right and made landfall on the Gulf Coast of Florida at Cape Romano as a Category 3 storm.

Wilma is considered to be the costliest storm in Mexico history after hitting as a Category 4 hurricane and remaining stationary for a significant amount of time over Cancun and Cozumel.

Hurricane Mitch – 1998

Hurricane Mitch had an exceptionally long life, lasting from October 22 until November 9. Mitch holds the distinction of being the second-deadliest storm in the Atlantic basin. The Florida Keys experienced a storm surge as high as four feet before the storm made landfall on the west coast of the state. While in Florida, the storm damaged or destroyed at least 645 houses while injuring 65 people. The storm is also responsible for about $6 billion in damage in Florida.

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However, as bad as it was for Florida, the damage was nothing compared to the wrath delivered by Mitch in Central America earlier in its life cycle. Mitch dumped heavy rainfall in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Honduras. Almost 20,000 fatalities in this region of the Atlantic were blamed on Mitch. In addition, about 2.7 million people were left homeless.

Hurricane Delta – 2020

Hurricane Delta was part of the record-setting 2020 hurricane season that featured a whopping 30 named storms. Delta formed on October 4 below finally dissipating on October 10. This storm made landfall as a Category 2 storm in Creole, Louisiana, just 13 miles from where Hurricane Laura hit just a few months earlier as a Category 4 behemoth. There were two fatalities attributed to Delta with power outages totaling about 800,000.

Hurricane Opal – 1995

Hurricane Opal left a wide swath of damage and destruction in its path, however, it could have been substantially worse. The storm was on course to slam into the Florida Panhandle as a Category 5 event. However, Opal unexpectedly weakened and only hit near Pensacola as a Category 3 storm with wind speeds of 115 mph.

The storm continued to cause damage as it moved across the southern portion of Alabama. Along the way, at least nine fatalities were reported as a result of the storm in the US. Damage from Opal was estimated to fall around $5.1 billion by the time it was done.

Prior to hitting the US, the storm ravaged Mexico and Guatemala. Approximately 50 fatalities were blamed on Opal in this region.

Hurricane Hazel – 1954

As the only hurricane to hit North Carolina as a Category 4 storm, it is no wonder that this event will long be remembered. The storm hit right along the border of North Carolina and South Carolina on October 15, 1954. The storm was so large that wind speeds as high as 90 mph reached as far inland as Washington, DC.

Hazel is responsible for up to 1,000 fatalities in the Caribbean with over 400 in Haiti alone. The storm killed nearly 100 people in the US with another 81 deaths reported in Canada due to rising floodwaters in the Toronto area. To this day, the remnants of Hazel produced the worst flooding event in the city’s history.

Superstorm Sandy – 2012

While not technically a hurricane, nobody on the East Coast will soon forget Superstorm Sandy. This massive October storm delivered historic storm surge flooding as it pounded the region for days. At least 159 deaths throughout the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic were at the hands of Sandy. Catastrophic property damage totaling over $70 billion was the big story of this storm, making it one of the most expensive natural disasters in the nation’s history.

Even though Sandy did not make landfall in the US as a hurricane, it made landfall as a Category 3 storm in Cuba before making its way up the Atlantic coastline. The outer bands of the storm reached Haiti, leading to widespread flooding and over 50 deaths.

The storm is also in the record books for being the largest Atlantic hurricane when measured by diameter. The tropical-storm-force winds of this storm reached 1,150 miles out from the center.