Hurricane Ian, now making its way toward landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is on the cusp of topping out the scale used by meteorologists to measure hurricane strength. If its winds increase even a little, before it comes ashore, Ian could become only the fifth massively destructive Category 5 storm on record to make landfall in the continental U.S.
The four previous Category 5 storms (maximum sustained winds of 157 miles per hour or more as measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale) that hit the U.S. have all made landfall on the Gulf Coast — three in Florida and one in Mississippi.
The National Hurricane Center describes Category 5 storms like this: “Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”
Although Category 5 storms are by definition the strongest, hurricanes such as Katrina, which made landfall near New Orleans as a Category 3 in 2005, and Maria, which made landfall in Puerto Rico as a Category 4 in 2017, have often been more devastating in loss of life and financial impact.
Here, we look back at four storms that hit the U.S. as a Category 5. 1935 Labor Day Hurricane
The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane is considered the strongest storm ever recorded to make landfall in the U.