MOST POWERFUL U.S. STORMS
The five most intense hurricanes on record to strike the U.S. mainland, ranked by minimum pressure at landfall, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami:
The Florida Keys Labor Day hurricane, 1935: A Category 5 storm when it reached the Florida Keys. No wind measurements were available, but pressure readings make it the most intense hurricane ever to make landfall on the U.S. mainland. It was blamed for 408 deaths and caused an estimated $6 million in damage.
Hurricane Camille, 1969: A Category 5 storm when it made landfall along the Mississippi coast on Aug. 17, 1969, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 190 mph. The storm caused roughly $1.4 billion in damage and was blamed for 143 deaths on the Gulf Coast, 113 deaths from flooding in Virginia and three deaths in Cuba.
Hurricane Katrina, 2005: The most destructive storm in U.S. history was blamed for around 1,200 deaths. A Category 3 storm with estimated maximum winds of 125 mph when it made landfall near Buras, La., on Aug. 29, 2005. Katrina, which made a second landfall near the border of Louisiana and Mississippi, unleashed catastrophic storm surge and flooding. Broken levees left most of New Orleans inundated.
Hurricane Andrew, 1992: Andrew was a Category 4 storm at landfall in Homestead, Fla., with a peak wind gust of 164 mph. Andrew continued into the Gulf of Mexico before reaching the central Louisiana coast as a Category 3 hurricane. Andrew was blamed for 23 deaths in the U.S. and three deaths in the Bahamas and caused an estimated $26.5 billion in damage.
Indianola, Texas, hurricane, 1886: Wiped out Indianola, a Texas port city that had been founded four decades earlier. What was left of the city was abandoned after the storm roared ashore in August 1886. The hurricane was blamed for 30 deaths and an estimated $3 million in damage.
Superstorm Sandy, 2012: One of the most destructive storms in U.S. history, Sandy weakened to a post-tropical cyclone when it made landfall in New Jersey last year. But its enormous size pushed a catastrophic storm surge into the heavily populated East Coast. At least 125 in the U.S. were killed.
HURRICANE? CYCLONE? TYPHOON?
They’re all the same, officially tropical cyclones. But they just use distinctive terms for a storm in different parts of the world. Hurricane is used in the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, central and northeast Pacific. They are typhoons in the northwest Pacific. In the Bay of Bengal and the Arabia Sea, they are called cyclones. Tropical cyclone is used in the southwest India Ocean; in the southwestern Pacific and southeastern India Ocean they are severe tropical cyclones.
One of the strongest storms on record has killed more than 100 people and injured another 100 in the central Philippines before sweeping west toward Vietnam on Saturday, still packing destructive winds capable of blowing away houses and uprooting trees.
Capt. John Andrews, deputy director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, said he had received “reliable information” from his staff describing the death and destruction Typhoon Haiyan wrecked in Tacloban city on Leyte Island, about 360 miles southwest of Manila, where the storm made landfall Friday.
He told said that more than 100 bodies were lying in the streets and another 100 were injured.
He said messages from civil aviation authorities in Tacloban to the capital, Manila, had to be relayed through another airport in the central Philippines once every five hours to conserve radio batteries.
The Philippine television station GMA reported its news team saw 11 bodies, including that of a child, washed ashore Friday and 20 more bodies at a pier in Tacloban hours after the typhoon ripped through the coastal city.
At least 20 more bodies were taken to a church in nearby Palo town that was used as an evacuation center but had to be abandoned when its roofs were blown away, the TV network reported. TV images showed howling winds peeling off tin roof sheets during heavy rain.
Ferocious winds felled large branches and snapped coconut trees. A man was shown carrying the body of his 6-year-old daughter who drowned, and another image showed vehicles piled up in debris.
Nearly 800,000 people were forced to flee their homes and damage was believed to be extensive.
Weather officials said Haiyan had sustained winds of 147 mph with gusts of 170 mph when it made landfall. By those measurements, Haiyan would be comparable to a strong Category 4 hurricane in the U.S., nearly in the top category, a 5.
Hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons are the same thing. They are just called different names in different parts of the world.
The typhoon’s sustained winds weakened today to 109 mph with gusts of up to 131 mph as it blew farther away from the Philippines toward Vietnam.
In Vietnam, state media reported that several central provinces began evacuating some 300,000 people from high risk areas. The typhoon was expected to make landfall in the central region early Sunday morning.
Because of cut-off communications in the Philippines, it was impossible to know the full extent of casualties and damage. Officially, four people were listed as dead as of this morning, before the latest information from Tacloban came in.
Southern Leyte Gov. Roger Mercado said the typhoon ripped roofs off houses and triggered landslides that blocked roads.
The dense clouds and heavy rains made the day seem almost as dark as night, he said.
“When you’re faced with such a scenario, you can only pray, and pray and pray,” Mercado said by telephone, adding that mayors in the province had not called in to report any major damage.
“I hope that means they were spared and not the other way around,” he said. “My worst fear is there will be massive loss of lives and property.”
Eduardo del Rosario, head of the disaster response agency, said the speed at which the typhoon sliced through the central islands — 25 mph — helped prevent its 375-mile band of rain clouds from dumping enough of their load to overflow waterways. Flooding from heavy rains is often the main cause of deaths from typhoons.
“It has helped that the typhoon blew very fast in terms of preventing lots of casualties,” regional military commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda said. He said the massive evacuation of villagers before the storm also saved many lives.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com