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Hurricane Hell: Here Are 5 of the Most Recent Devastating Storms Linked to Climate Change

September 12, 2018 in Blogs

By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

The new normal is frightening.

Only two weeks after the government of Puerto Rico raised the official death toll from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975—making it the deadliest hurricane to occur last year—North and South Carolina residents are evacuating coastal areas in preparation for Hurricane Florence, which is expected to deliver winds of 130 miles per hour and be the worst hurricane to hit the Carolinas since the 1980s. Hurricanes have been pounding the southeastern U.S. for centuries, but in the era of climate change, they are becoming more frequent and more devastating.

Meteorologists are seeing an increase in the what is known as “rapid intensification,” meaning that a storm’s maximum sustained winds increase by at least 35 mph within a 24-hour period. According to data from the National Hurricane Center, there were, on average, ten cases of rapid intensification per year between 1982 and 1994—whereas between 2005 and 2017, 20 cases per year was the average. In 2017, the National Hurricane Center reported 40 cases of rapid intensification.

Meteorologists have five separate categories for hurricanes, with Category 1 being the least severe and Category 5 being the most severe. Florence appears to be reaching the Carolinas as a Category 4, but it could intensify to Category 5. And when rapid intensification—a phenomenon encouraged by climate change—occurs and a hurricane goes from Category 1 to Category 4 or 5 in less than 24 hours, there is little time to prepare.  

Here are five of the most devastating hurricanes that occurred in recent years.

1. Hurricane Katrina

In August 2015, Hurricane Katrina originated in the Bahamas before making its way to the U.S. A hurricane varies in intensity, and at its worst, Katrina became a Category 5 storm. The National Hurricane Center attributed a total of 1836 deaths to Katrina, with up to 1577 deaths in Louisiana—and the flooding was so severe in New Orleans that 80% of the city was under water.

Veteran reporter Mark Schleifstein, who covered Katrina for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, witnessed Katrina first hand and has some grim advice for residents of the Carolinas …read more


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