Of the 274 Direct-Landfall Hurricanes Recorded in US, Only 34% Have Been Category 3 or Higher

By Susan Jones | August 25, 2017 | 9:14am EDT
Hurricane Harvey approaches Central Texas on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017 (Photo: NOAA)

(CNSNews.com) - Major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 or higher, have made direct landfall in the continental United States in every decade since 1851, except for the present decade. That may change tonight.

Since 1851, when the government started keeping records, 274 hurricanes have made direct landfall in the continental United States (see note below), according to data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Of those 274 direct-landfall hurricanes, only 94, or 34.30 percent, have been "major" storms, defined as Category 3 or higher, with winds at or above 111 miles an hour.

If predictions come true,  Hurricane Harvey will be among this group when it reaches land in central Texas late tonight or early Saturday. It is then predicted to stall out and produce record rainfall.

According to NOAA, since records began in 1851:

-- Three hurricanes, or 1.09 percent, were "catastrophic" Category 5s (winds of 157 mph or higher). These include Andrew (Florida) in August 1992; Camille (Louisiana and Mississippi) in August 1969; and an unnamed Labor Day storm in Florida in September 1935.

-- Eighteen (6.56 percent) of the direct-landfall hurricanes were Category 4 (130-156 mph winds), which also produce catastrophic damage. The most recent Category 4 storm was Charley (Florida) in August 2004; and Hugo (South Carolina) in September 1989, which came a full 27 years after the last Category 4 storm (Hurricane Carla in Texas) in September 1961.

-- Seventy-three (26.64 percent) of the 274 direct-landfall hurricanes were "devastating" Category 3 storms (111-129 mph winds). The most recent of these was Wilma, which hit Florida 12 years ago in October 2005. Including Wilma, there were a total of six Category 3 hurricanes in 2004-2005, including Katrina, which devastated New Orleans; Rita, which flooded central Texas; Dennis (Florida), Jeanne (Florida) and Ivan (Alabama-Florida).

-- Seventy-five of the 274 direct-landfall hurricanes (27.37 percent) were "extremely dangerous" Category 2 storms (96-110 mph winds).

-- And 105 (38.32 percent) since 1851 were "very dangerous" Category 1 hurricanes (74-95 mph winds).

(*Note: The 274 direct-landfall number excludes hurricanes that did not make landfall in the continental U.S. but may have produced hurricane-force winds on land from locations offshore; and it excludes four storms that made landfall in Mexico, producing hurricane-force winds in Texas.)

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