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Hurricane Dorian: Six things to know about Category 4 hurricanes.

Dorian is expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm as it approaches Florida. That would make it even more dangerous.
This satellite image shows Hurricane Dorian moving over open waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Dorian was expected to grow into a potentially devastating Category 4 hurricane before hitting the U.S. mainland early next week. [AP]
Published Aug. 29

Hurricane Dorian is now expected to strengthen into a dangerous Category 4 storm before making landfall along Florida’s east coast early next week.

Dorian was moving northwest through the Atlantic Ocean after pummeling Puerto Rico with rain. It was a Category 1 storm on Thursday afternoon, packing 85 mph sustained winds. Forecasters think it will intensify into a Category 4 storm as it crosses warm waters on its approach to Florida.

Here are some quick facts about Category 4 storms:

• Since 1924, more than 110 storms that formed in the Atlantic Basin, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, have strengthened into Category 4 hurricanes. Thirty-four went on to become Category 5s for at least a few hours, including last year’s Hurricane Michael. Most Category 4s occur in September, but monster storms often form in late August and early October, too.

• It’s highly unusual for a hurricane to make landfall as a Category 4 storm in the United States. Only 14 have done it since 1924. (The number rises to 18 if you include the four storms that rolled ashore as Category 5s). Seven storms made landfall in Florida packing Category 4 winds. Three more came ashore in our state as Category 5 storms: the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and Hurricane Michael last year.

• Hurricane Charley in 2004 was one of the most destructive Category 4 storms to hit Florida. It was a fast-moving buzz saw that packed 150 mph winds. It demolished parts of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda and carried enough of a wallop inland to create considerable damage in the Orlando area, including Winter Park. The storm was blamed for 10 deaths and more than $15 billion in damage. In 2017, Hurricane Irma roared ashore in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm and them marched up the state, forcing an estimated 6.5 million people to evacuate.

• Category 4 storms include sustained winds of 130–156 mph, measured 33 feet above the ground. Winds that powerful can easily destroy mobile homes, snap trees and chew the roofs off even the most well-built homes. In 2004, Tampa Bay Times reporters observed Hurricane Charley strip the paint off of a car.

• Don’t think of a Category 4 storm packing 150 mph winds as being twice as strong as a Category 1 with 75 mph winds. The Cat 4 is much, much more powerful. Why? Wind power is exponential. Put another way: The winds from a strong Category 4 storm (156 mph) have the potential to create twice as much damage as a weak Category 4 storm (130 mph).

• Category 4 storms can also create 15 to 20 feet of storm surge. Power can be knocked out for days, and in some cases, weeks or even months. Hurricane experts routinely describe the damage wrought by Cat 4s as "catastrophic."

* This article is an update of a similar list complied by the Times in 2016.

Sources: National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.



2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide

HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane

PREPARE YOUR STUFF: Get your documents and your data ready for a storm

BUILD YOUR KIT: The stuff you’ll need to stay safe — and comfortable — for the storm

PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job

NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter

What Michael taught the Panhandle and Tampa Bay

What the Panhandle’s top emergency officials learned from Michael

‘We’re not going to give up.’ What a school superintendent learned from Michael

What Tampa Bay school leaders fear most from a storm

Tampa Bay’s top cops fear for those who stay behind

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Mos Antenor, 42, drives a bulldozer while clearing the road after Hurricane Dorian Mclean's Town, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Friday Sept. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa) RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    Threatening to exacerbate islands’ problems, Humberto’s rains were falling on Abaco island.
  2. Members of the fire rescue team Task Force 8, from Gainesville, Florida, help remove a body one week after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco Island, Bahamas, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. Dorian, the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas' recorded history, has killed at least 44 people in Bahamas as of Sunday, Sept. 8, according to the government. GONZALO GAUDENZI  |  AP
    Many in the northwestern Bahamas, known for its casinos, golf courses and mega yachts, worry they will be forced into deep poverty.
  3. The tropical outlook on Saturday Sept. 14, 2019. National Hurricane Center
    A north-northwest turn is expected by Sunday, just as the storm is projected to become a hurricane.
  4. The tropical outlook on Saturday Sept. 14, 2019. National Hurricane Center
    Humberto’s wind speeds reached 40 mph on Saturday as it’s expected to turn north-northwest.
  5. Wreckage left behind by Hurricane Michael. News Service of Florida
    Entire school systems are still recovering from long-standing damage and dealing with the disruptive aftermath of the storm.
  6. A 12-year-old Bahamian girl was separated from parents in Nassau after being rescued from Abaco. She ended up in a Miami home for migrant kids. COURTESY OF PAUL FAMILY
    Katyora Paul was released from a Miami shelter to her mother.
  7. The tropical outlook on Friday Sept. 14, 2019. National Hurricane Center
    The potential cyclone is expected to ride up the east coast, but will still send rain to Tampa Bay.
  8. Trevon Laing walks the roof of his house to repair the damage made by Hurricane Dorian, in Gold Rock Creek, Grand Bahama, Bahamas, Thursday Sept. 12, 2019. Trevor says "After the hurricane they had me for dead, My momma was crying." When he returned, he said he found his brother crying on the front porch."I'm like, 'Hey, I'm not dead! You guys have no faith in me. I'm a survivor,'" he said, adding with a laugh, "He was shocked and mad at the same time." RAMON ESPINOSA  |  AP
    The government has cautioned that the list is preliminary and many could be staying in shelters and just haven’t been able to connect with loved ones.
  9. The outlook of the tropical disturbance from the National Hurricane Center. National Hurricane Center
    The National Hurricane Center said a disturbance over the Bahamas is growing and could soon become the next named storm.
  10. Royal Bahamas Police Crime Scene Investigators search for bodies in Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island on Sunday [AL DÍAZ   |   Miami Herald]
    Hundreds of evacuees are being turned away from because of new rules that weren’t in place before Hurricane Dorian. Bahamians who lost everything say they can’t comply.
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