Nature and Biodiversity

Hurricane Ian made landfall as a category 4 storm. How many US hurricanes have been stronger?

Damaged property after a hurricane.

Hurricane Ian was classed as category 4 when it made landfall in Florida. Image: Unsplash/ Mick Haupt

Katharina Buchholz
Data Journalist, Statista
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United States

  • Hurricane Ian recently hit West Florida and has been classified as a category 4 hurricane, meaning it has wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour.
  • Only 32 hurricanes have made landfall as a category 4 storm or higher in the continental US since records began in 1851.
  • Only three stronger storms have hit Florida – in 2018, 1992 and 1935.

Hurricane Ian hit the West Florida coast close to Fort Myers yesterday, causing widespread destruction, flooding and power outages. Upon making landfall at offshore island Cayo Costa, Ian was classified as a category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale, exhibiting wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. A storm surge in the area reached a peak of 12 feet while a maximum of two million people were out of power in the state on 28 September.

According to the Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, only 32 hurricanes have made landfall as a category 4 storm or higher in the continental U.S. since records began in 1851. Category 5 starts at a wind speed of 157 miles per hour, making Ian a hurricane at the upper threshold of category 4 and the fourth-strongest to ever hit Florida together with Hurricane Charley in 2004 (also 150 mph).

The three stronger storms that have hit Florida were all classified as category 5 – Hurricane Michael in 2018, Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the destructive Labor Day hurricane of 1935, which claimed an estimated 400 lives when it slammed the Florida Keys. Considering all of the continental U.S., Ian was the fifth-strongest to ever hit, albeit in an eight-way tie, according to Fox Weather.

On the morning of 29 September, the storm was still making its way across the state but was downgraded to a category 1 storm the previous night and finally, a tropical storm as of 5 a.m. local time on 29 September.

A graphic showing the strength of hurricanes making landfall in the US.
The strength of hurricanes making landfall in the US. Image: Statista.

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