TABLE 4 Worst Hurricanes

Name

Year

S-S Category

Maximum Winds (knots)

Damage (billion dollars)

Katrinaa

2005

4

150

100-200

Andrew

1992

5

125

44.9

Betsy

1965

3

118

6.5

Camille

1969

5

139

14.9

Gilbert

1988

4

101

3.0 (approx.)b

Hugo

1989

4

140

12.7

Iniki

1992

4

125

1.8

Luis

1995

4

120

2.5+c

Mitch

1989

5

155

Unknownd

Opal

1995

5

130

4.1

aCategory Four at landfall; Category Five in the Gulf of Mexico.

bLowest recorded pressure, 888 millibars.

cQueen Elizabeth 2 was on the fringes of this storm when hit by a rogue wave.

d9,086 dead, mostly in Central America, including crew of 31 from Fantome.

Wave heights during storms are affected by the condition of the sea before the storm. Sometimes called sea severity, the sea condition influences how big the waves can become. For example, if winds have been blowing before the storm, waves will be larger than if the storm originated in calm seas. Ochi cites two cases in which winds of 12 to 27 knots had been blowing for up to 10 days prior to a storm. Waves were already 8 to 16 feet high. With the advent of the storm, they increased to 49 to 56 feet in a matter of 21 hours.22 Thus, in a fully developed sea, a smaller hurricane might produce larger waves than otherwise would be expected.

The National Weather Service anticipates that hurricane activity in the Atlantic-Caribbean area will continue to increase during the next several decades. Naturally, this prediction is of grave concern to mariners who out of necessity find themselves in these waters during the hurricane seasons.

There are others, however, who monitor the ocean’s great storms from afar and eagerly await the arrival of the resulting waves on distant shores. Rather than run from huge waves, they run after them, hoping to ride them on flimsy fiberglass surfboards.



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