Today commemorates the 22nd anniversary of what became Hurricane Andrew. On August 14, 1992, a tropical wave formed off the coast of Africa and began to move westward. The next day, meteorologists began to classify the system, thunderstorm activity became more concentrated, and narrow spiral rain bands developed around a small but growing center of circulation. Named Tropical Depression Three, at the time, the system was still 1,630 miles east-southeast of Barbados, and tracking west-northwestward at 20 mph.
By August 18, winds were increased to 50 mph but thunderstorms decreased substantially. On the 19th, a hurricane research flight into the storm was unable to locate a well-defined center and the next day, it appeared that the system was withering. But a strong high pressure cell developing over the southeastern U.S. said otherwise, causing the storm to trail westward with renewed vigor. An eye formed, and one week later, on August 22, Andrew attained its hurricane status. At the time, it was only 650 miles off the Bahamas, predicted to make landfall near Jupiter, Florida. The rest, we all know too well.
Going back 45 years ago today, to August 14, 1969, Hurricane Camille formed just west of the Cayman Islands. Unlike Andrew, this system intensified quite quickly, and reached western Cuba the next day as a Category 3 hurricane. It didn’t stop there. Camille came across the Gulf of Mexico and entered Category 5 status on August 16, making landfall along the coast of Mississippi with winds in the 200 mph range. Even Columbia, Mississippi, located 75 miles inland, recorded sustained winds of 120 mph. Through winds, floods, and surges, 256 people died and $1.421 billion reported in damage.
This week also marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Charley, which began as a tropical depression off Barbados on August 9, 2004, and hit Florida on August 13. While the storm had lost strength after its passage over Cuba, it gained speed in the Gulf, accelerating into Category 4 status as it passed over Captiva Island with 150 mph winds.
Charley was small in size, but powerful, producing violent winds that devastated Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, produced at least 16 tornadoes, and racking up about $15 billion in damages.