It’s been 20 years since Hurricane Andrew struck the coast of Florida as a Category 5 storm and made history as America’s most expensive natural disaster – a record that held until Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Here’s a look at 10 recent major hurricanes (storms of at least Category 3 intensity) to make landfall in the U.S. Hurricane Irene from 2011 is also included here, as an example of how a low-to-moderate strength hurricane can still do serious damage long after it makes landfall.
The graphics (provided by NOAA) show the storm tracks and strength throughout the life of each storm. Hurricanes feed off the heat contained in tropical ocean waters, and these storms lose their intensity when they move over cooler waters, cross over land, or encounter unfavorable conditions in the atmosphere. Hurricanes are steered by large-scale weather patterns, and the position of High Pressure centers and cold fronts can pull these damaging storms in many different directions during the course of their lifetime. Hurricane Ivan, below, is a great example of that.
In these graphics, you can see these hurricanes lost much of their strength as they moved inland. This is why the most damage done by a hurricane's winds is always near the coast. Hurricanes may hit the coast with a punch, but after a few days of moving inland, the winds are no longer the main concern. Instead, hurricanes can do damage to inland areas by dumping large amounts of rainfall, which can lead to deadly flooding. Click the graphics for a larger view.