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.
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.
Michael had formed over the central/western Caribbean and then rapidly intensified in the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall in the Panhandle.
Thirty-one people died directly from the hurricane and 43 more indirectly.
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.
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.
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.
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.