This National Hurricane Center image of Harvey making landfall screams out “powerful storm,” does it not? You can clearly see the eye of the hurricane.
In just 56 hours, Harvey went from a tropical depression to a category 4 hurricane. This was unexpected. It apparently hit an area of really warm water that helped it to quickly power up.
Then, it came ashore as a Category 4, with sustained winds around 130mph and higher gusts.
How Often Do Category 4 Storms Hit The U.S.?
Major hurricanes, those of category 3 wind intensity, and higher, are rare. And the odds of them making landfall along the U.S. Coast are even more slim.
Consider this tally from the National Hurricane Center.
The hurricane category is on the left side, the number of times that category of storm has hit the mainland United States is on the right.
Since 1851, this is only the 19th Category 4 storm to make landfall along the mainland U.S. That time frame is 166 years!
When Was The Last Category 4 Hurricane To Hit The U.S.?
The last category 4 storm to hit the mainland United States was Hurricane Charley in 2004. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit as a Category 5 and in 1989 Hurricane Hugo made landfall as a category 4. Those are the three most powerful hurricanes to hit the U.S. until Harvey, on August 25, 2017.
Why Do Some Refuse To Evacuate During Major Hurricanes?
We are going to hear of significant damage and major, major flooding form Hurricane Harvey in the coming days. And sadly, we’ll be hearing about some who lose their lives during various phases of this storm because they stayed home instead of evacuating. Why do people stay during a hurricane?
For one thing, the National Hurricane Center says 80% of the coastal population from Texas to Maine has never been through a hurricane. Some may feel like they can ‘dodge the bullet’ like they have already.
And if evacuation shelters do not accept pets, many will stay with their furry family members.
But there are two other things a National Weather Service study points out.
Number one, even those who live in hurricane prone areas forget how bad it they can be: “Sociologists estimate, however, that people only remember the worst effects of a hurricane for about seven years (B. Morrow, personal communication).”
And number two: “One of the greatest concerns of the National Weather Service’s (NWS) hurricane preparedness officials is that people will think that no more large loss of life will occur in a hurricane because of our advanced technology and improved hurricane forecasts.”
As we saw with Harvey, the forecast track was quite good, but storm intensity exceeded expectations. As the storm’s winds weaken, it will be the flooding that catches many by surprise.
The floods will certainly be catastrophic for many areas as this storm will be nearly stalled out into next week.
So now you know how rare a category 4 hurricane is, and why people stay despite the warnings to evacuate before a hurricane.