Fifty years of Category 5 hurricanes in the North Atlantic

As Hurricane Matthew approached yesterday, Oct. 6, Florida governor Rick Scott urged 1.5 million residents living in the state’s evacuation zones to leave immediately. The Weather Channel issued a warning so strenuous that it went viral. And Fox News’s Shepard Smith told viewers that their children would die if they didn’t evacuate in time, with a nervous smile.

Hurricane Matthew has killed at least 300 people in Haiti and is expected to cause billions of dollars in damage. Earlier this week, Matthew reached Category 5 levels with sustained wind speeds reaching 139 knots. It has since been downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane, but some meteorologists say the storm may strengthen before reaching the US.

Since 1967, there have been 18 North Atlantic hurricanes that reached Category 5 strength—sustained wind speeds in excess of 137 knots (157 mph). Prior to Matthew, the most recent was Hurricane Felix in 2007. The strongest on record was Hurricane Allen in 1980, which had wind speeds up to 165 knots (190 mph). In the map above you can see the path of all 18 hurricanes, as well as Matthew.

And here they are by year:

Year Name Wind speed*, knots
1967 Beulah 140
1969 Camille 150
1971 Edith 140
1977 Anita 150
1979 David 150
1980 Allen 165
1988 Gilbert 160
1989 Hugo 140
1992 Andrew 150
1998 Mitch 155
2003 Isabel 145
2004 Ivan 145
2005 Emily 140
2005 Katrina 150
2005 Rita 155
2005 Wilma 160
2007 Dean 150
2007 Felix 150

* Maximum sustained wind speed

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