How Hurricane Ian compares to the strongest hurricanes that hit Florida

Hurricane Ian is one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit Florida.

In the middle of the day on Wednesday, September 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall near Cape Coral, Florida as a high end category 4 hurricane.

Ian was just 2 mph shy of category 5 strength with sustained winds of 155 mph.

Whatever the designation, Ian will be remembered as the fourth-strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in Florida. Additionally, Ian is only the third category 4 storm to strike Florida’s west coast since 1851.

The two storms before Ian were Charley in 2004 and a hurricane in 1948 (this was before NOAA began naming storms).

Meteorologists have divided the development of a tropical cyclone into four stages: Tropical disturbance, tropical depression, tropical storm, and full-fledged tropical cyclone.

1.Tropical cyclone

The heated ocean’s water vapour condenses to produce clouds, which radiate heat into the atmosphere. The air that has been warmed rises and is drawn into the cloud column. The cloud columns get bigger and bigger as evaporation and condensation continue. The wind circulates around a core as a pattern emerges (like water going down a drain).

2.Tropical depression

The air at the top of the cloud column is cooling and getting unstable as the thunderstorm rises higher and higher. The air at the top of the clouds warms up as the heat energy from the cooling water vapour is released, raising air pressure and driving winds to travel away from the high pressure area. The pressures at the surface decrease as a result of this migration and warming. Then air near the surface travels toward the area of lower pressure, rises, and produces more thunderstorms. The storm cloud column’s winds are whirling in circles as they get faster and faster. A storm is referred to as a tropical depression when the winds are between 25 and

3.Tropical storm

The tropical depression develops into a tropical storm when wind speeds exceed 39 mph. At this point, the storm is also given a name. The storm’s eye, or calm core, is being encircled by stronger winds that are also starting to twist and whirl. The direction of the wind is counterclockwise (from west to east) in the northern hemisphere and clockwise (from east to west) in the southern hemisphere. The Coriolis effect is the name for this phenomenon.


74 mph is the threshold at which a storm is classified as a hurricane. At least 50,000 feet high, the storm spans an area of almost 125 miles. The eye’s width ranges from 5 to 30 kilometres. The hurricane is pushed westward into the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, or the southeast coast of the United States by the trade winds, which blow from east to west. The hurricane’s eye is also surrounded by a massive accumulation of ocean water due to the winds and low air pressure, which can result in enormous storm surges when the water reaches land.

Hurricane categories:

CategoryWind Speed (mph)Damage at Landfall
5157 or higherCatastrophic

Hurricane Charley, 2004

  • Hurricane Charley made landfall on the southwest coast of Florida, near Cayo Costa, an island off of Florida’s Gulf Coast, as a Category 4 storm, per
  • Hurricane Charley was one of four hurricanes in just six weeks during the 2004 hurricane season, per NOAA.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Tuesday referenced Hurricane Charley in issuing a warning for Hurricane Ian, saying: “I know there are folks in southwest Florida who remember Hurricane Charley was projected to make a direct impact into Tampa Bay and then it turned and went into southwest Florida.”
  • “I would just say, the track may end up doing something similar but this is a much different storm,” he said.

Hurricane Wilma, 2005

  • Hurricane Wilma hit South Florida as a Category 3 hurricane with wind gusts of up to 120 mph, per the National Weather Service

22 deaths were attributed to Wilma, including five in Florida, and damage in southern Florida cost an estimated $16.8 billion, per NOAA.

Hurricane Irma, 2017

  • Millions of customers in the state lost power as Hurricane Irma, a Category 4 storm with wind gusts of 130 mph and tornadoes, made landfall in the Florida Keys.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the storm caused damage worth $50 billion in Florida and caused seven deaths directly related to it.

Hurricane Michael, 2018

  • Hurricane Michael, which made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, was initially rated as a Category 4 hurricane in 2018, however NOAA later elevated the storm to Category 5 following a post-storm investigation months later.

In the Florida Panhandle, the storm left behind significant damage. According to Reuters, there were eight direct fatalities confirmed, including seven in Florida.

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