Hurricane Matthew has strengthened back into an “extremely dangerous” Category 4 storm with 130-mph sustained winds. Here are some quick facts about Category 4 storms.
1. Since meteorologists started measuring such things, 126 storms that formed in the Atlantic Basin, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, have strengthened into Category 4 hurricanes. Thirty-one went on to become Category 5s for at least a few hours, including Hurricane Matthew. Most Category 4s occur in September, but monster storms often form in early October, too.
2. It’s highly unusual for a hurricane to make landfall as a Category 4 storm in the United States. Only nine have done it since 1924. (The number rises to 12 if you include the three storms that rolled ashore as Category 5s). Five of the Category 4s officially came ashore in Florida.
3. Hurricane Charley in 2004 was the last Category 4 to hit Florida. It was a fast-moving buzz saw of a storm that packed 150 mph winds. It demolished parts of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda and carried enough of a wallop inland to create considerable damage in the Orlando area, including Winter Park. The storm was blamed for 10 deaths and more than $15 billion in damage.
4. Category 4 storms include sustained winds of 130–156 mph measured 33 feet above the ground. Winds that powerful can easily destroy mobile homes, snap trees and chew the roofs off even the most well-built homes. In 2004, Tampa Bay Times reporters observed Hurricane Charley strip the paint off of a car.
5. Don’t think of a Category 4 storm packing 150 mph winds as being twice as strong as a Category 1 with 75 mph winds. The Cat 4 is much, much more powerful. Why? Wind power is exponential. Put another way: The winds from a strong Category 4 storm (156 mph) have the potential to create twice as much damage as a weak Category 4 storm (130 mph).
6. Category 4 storms can also create up to 18 feet of storm surge, though the estimates for Hurricane Matthew range up to 10 feet. Power can be knocked out for days, and in some cases, weeks or even months. Hurricane experts routinely describe the damage wrought by Cat 4s as “catastrophic.”