Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 4:21 PM GMT on March 22, 2006
The astounding Hurricane Season of 2005 has extended its grip on the record for most Category 5 hurricanes in a season. According to the National Hurricane Canter report on Hurricane Emily released earlier this month, Emily is now recognized as a Category 5 hurricane. This brings the record for most Category 5 hurricanes in a season to four (Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). The old record was two Category 5 storms, set in 1960 and again in 1961. Emily is the earliest-forming Category 5 hurricane on record in the Atlantic basin and the only known hurricane of that strength to occur during the month of July.
According to the report, Emily was a Category 5 hurricane with 160 mph winds and a 929 mb central pressure for about six hours at 00 GMT July 17 2005, while located approximately 115 miles southwest of Jamaica. The storm weakened somewhat before making landfall on the Mexican coast near Cozumel Island as a Category 4 storm with 135 mph winds and a storm surge of up to 15 feet. Emily went on to cross the Gulf of Mexico and slam ashore on the Mexican coast south of Brownsville, Texas, as a Category 3 hurricane. Emily killed one person on its passage over Grenada as a Category 1 hurricane, and five in Jamaica. Amazingly, no one died in Mexico as a result of these two powerful hurricane strikes on the coast--a tribute to the successful evacuation efforts by the Mexicans. In addition, Mexico suffered only four deaths from Hurricane Wilma's four-day pounding. Wilma started out as a Category 4 hurricane when it hit Cozumel Island, and gradually weakened to a Category 2 hurricane as it plowed north over Cancun and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. Mexico's feat of surviving two Category 4 hurricane strikes and a Category 3 strike to populated areas, with only four deaths, is a civil defense success unparalleled in hurricane history.
Figure 1. Hurricane Emily at its peak strength--a Category 5 storm with 160 mph winds.
One other interesting item to note about Emily: the official NHC track forecast out to four days was better than any of the computer forecast models. Five-day forecasts by a few of the models such as the GFS were better than the official forecast, though. In general, the official NHC forecast was tough to beat over the course of the Hurricane Season of 2005.
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