The National Hurricane Center (NHC) announced today that Hurricane Ian briefly reached Category 5 status before making landfall in southwest Florida just over six months ago.
The storm, which caused significant death and destruction, had its name “Ian” retired from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names by the World Meteorological Organization last Wednesday.
The NHC reanalyzed observations from the Air Force Reserve and NOAA Hurricane Hunters, along with other data, and concluded that Ian’s peak intensity reached 160 mph on September 28 at 8 a.m. EDT. To be classified as a Category 5 hurricane, a storm’s sustained winds must be at least 157 mph.
Over the next seven hours, Ian’s winds decreased slightly to 150 mph before making landfall on the barrier island of Cayo Costa, Florida at 3:05 p.m. EDT. Since then, the hurricane has been classified as a Category 4 storm. It is not unusual for the NHC to change a hurricane’s status after a post-storm analysis.
Hurricane Ian’s reclassification follows a similar report seven months after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm, revealing that Michael also briefly reached Category 5 status as it made landfall.
39 hurricanes on record have achieved Category 5 status. Of these, only four have made landfall in the United States: Hurricane Michael in 2018, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and the Labor Day Hurricane in 1935.
Hurricane Ian’s brief escalation to a Category 5 storm highlights the continued importance of hurricane preparedness and the need for accurate post-storm analyses in order to better understand these powerful natural phenomena.