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History proves it: October is an active month for hurricanes in Florida

Notable hurricanes slam peninsula even in fall

MEXICO BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 17:  Destroyed houses sit in debris and rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 17, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. The hurricane hit on October 10 along the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm causing massive damage and claimed the lives of more then a dozen people.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MEXICO BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 17: Destroyed houses sit in debris and rubble in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael on October 17, 2018 in Mexico Beach, Florida. The hurricane hit on October 10 along the Florida Panhandle as a category 4 storm causing massive damage and claimed the lives of more then a dozen people. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

ORLANDO, Fla. – October is not a time for Floridians to relax when it comes to hurricanes. In fact, 11 major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, have made landfall in Florida during the 10th month of the year.

Florida is still favorable landfall location for hurricanes in October.
Florida is still favorable landfall location for hurricanes in October. (WKMG)

Location is everything. Being a peninsula doesn’t help when tropical cyclones tend to form in the western Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Not only is the state prone to Atlantic storms, but the Gulf of Mexico tosses a few our way, too.

These cyclones have plenty of time to sit in the warm shallow water of the Gulf and grow before making landfall. There’s also the issue of cold fronts acting as a highway for tropical cyclone movement. Although the list below doesn’t include all the tropical cyclones to wreak havoc in October, the cyclones below are unforgettable.

The most recent and memorable hurricane to strike Florida in October is Hurricane Michael in 2018. The Category 5 monster slammed Mexico Beach with 155 mph winds.

Track positions for Hurricane Michael 2018.
Track positions for Hurricane Michael 2018. (NOAA)

Michael had formed over the central/western Caribbean and then rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in the Panhandle.

High Water marks in Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael.
High Water marks in Mexico Beach after Hurricane Michael. (NOAA)

Thirty-one people died directly from the hurricane and 43 more indirectly.

Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Fla., Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Wind and water from Hurricane Matthew batter downtown St. Augustine, Fla., Friday, Oct. 7, 2016. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) (Associated Press)

Hurricane Matthew in 2016 was the lowest latitude forming Category 5 on record for the Atlantic Basin. Although it didn’t make landfall in Florida, the impacts were extensive. St. Augustine and Jacksonville suffered major damages in terms of flooding. Flagler, Volusia and Brevard counties also were inundated with flooding 2-6 feet above ground level.

Matthew made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in South Carolina and then fell apart Oct. 10. Six hundred three lives were lost.

Who could forget the 2005 hurricane season? The last name on the list of hurricane names doesn’t mean it will be a weak storm. In fact, Wilma set the all-time lowest recorded pressure in the Atlantic Basin and was a monster Category 5 cyclone.

On October 23, 2005, the GOES spacecraft captured this image of both Hurricane Wilma and Tropical Storm Alpha, the record breaker
On October 23, 2005, the GOES spacecraft captured this image of both Hurricane Wilma and Tropical Storm Alpha, the record breaker (NASA/NOAA)

Wilma hitched a ride on a cold front, it was a Category 2 storm that began a trip across the Gulf toward the southwest coast of Florida. The flooding was an issue, but wind damage was extensive. Ten tornadoes formed over Florida including four in Brevard County and one in Polk. Damages tallied up to $20 billion in the Sunshine State.

Best track for Hurricane Mitch 1998
Best track for Hurricane Mitch 1998 (NOAA)

Hurricane Mitch in 1998 formed in the southwest Caribbean Sea just south of Jamaica before it made a path to Naples. Roughly 19,325 people died from the Category 5 hurricane, including people in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, Costa Rica and the United States.

The true number may never be known, however, the extent of casualties and damages make it comparable to the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. It was a tropical storm by the time it reached Naples, spawning five tornadoes that injured 65 people and destroyed 645 homes. Damages in the United States tallied up to $40 million.

Damage in Pensacola from Hurricane Opal 25 years ago.
Damage in Pensacola from Hurricane Opal 25 years ago. (NOAA)

One more big hurricane in October Florida history is Opal. This Category 4 cyclone was the strongest of the 1995 season after forming off the Yucatan Peninsula.

It rapidly intensified over the Gulf of Mexico, luckily weakening a little to Category 3 status before landfall in Pensacola on Oct. 4 25 years ago.

It was the first major hurricane to strike the panhandle since Eloise 20 years prior. Opal knocked out power to nearly two million people from Florida to the Carolinas. Many Floridians were without water for several days.


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