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Costliest U.S. Hurricanes: Letters A, I, C, D and F???

September 9, 2012

By Ken Kaye, Sun Sentinel


Sept. 09--Have hurricane names starting with A caused more damage than those with B, C or even P names? Your guess would be as good as, well, anyone`s.

Scientifically speaking, no letter of the alphabet portends disaster more than any other. There are just too many variables, and the alphabet isn`t one of those.

But since storms started to be named in 1953, purely speaking in dollars of damage, the A`s lead the pack with $80.7 billion. Anyone remember Andrew?

The I`s aren`t far behind. Already responsible for $80 billion in damage, that figure could soar if Isaac`s estimated $2 billion rampage goes higher.

Rounding out the field: C, D and F storms, which left $57.2 billion, $22.8 billion and $31.8 billion, respectively, based on National Hurricane Center figures.

Of course, Hurricane Katrina alone rises above whole groups of storms -- it left $108 billion in damage in 2005. And that is what hurricane center spokesman Dennis Feltgen wants to emphasize.

"Pay attention to that first word, `hurricane,` " he said.

A storms

You might call them the A-list storms, considering their propensity to cause destruction. But Andrew in particular has given the whole group a bad name.

It struck south Miami-Dade County and then Louisiana in August 1992, leaving $45.5 billion in damage, based on adjusted 2010 dollars. Then there was Category 1 Agnes, which hit Florida`s Panhandle, Connecticut and New York in 1972.

Other notable A storms: Tropical Storm Allison hit the Houston area in 2001 and Category 3 Alicia hit Texas in 1983.

I storms

Many people shudder when I storms threaten, and for good reason: The last three hurricanes to hit the U.S. coast were Isaac, Irene and Ike.

--Isaac hit southeast Louisiana earlier this month as a Category 1.

--Irene first struck North Carolina as a Category 1 and then swamped the Northeast as a tropical storm in August 2011.

--Ike devastated Galveston, Texas, and the Louisiana Gulf coast as a Category 2 in September 2008.

I storms also have targeted Florida: Category 3 Ivan hit near Pensacola in 2004, and Category 1 Inez struck Miami-Dade County and the Keys in 1966.

Other notable "I" storms: Category 2 Isabel, which hit North Carolina in 2003, and Category 3 Ione, which hit North Carolina in 1955.

C storms

The C`s are well named if the C signals catastrophe. This group includes several notoriously powerful systems, including Camille, the strongest hurricane to ever hit the United States. It struck Mississippi in August 1969, causing $9.2 billion in damage.

For Florida, Category 4 Charley turned into a nightmare when it hit Punta Gorda in August 2004, causing $15.8 billion in damage. In 1962, Category 2 Cleo struck South Florida, causing $5.7 billion in damage.

Other notable "C" storms: Category 4 Carla struck Texas in 1961, and Category 3 Celia hit Texas in 1979.

D storms

It might seem like the D storms had it in for Florida. Four of the five costliest D storms to strike the US coastline in the past 59 years hit our state.

Among them was Category 4 Donna, which struck the Keys, the southwest coast and then Daytona Beach in September 1960, causing $3.2 billion in damage. Category 2 Dora struck near Jacksonville in September 1964, Category 3 Dennis struck near Pensacola in July 2005 and Category 2 David struck near West Palm Beach in September 1979.

Though fewer in number, the F storms cost a total of $31.8 billion and include the likes of Frances in 2004 and Floyd in 1999.

Why name storms?

The National Hurricane Center says using short distinctive names makes it easier to alert residents, weather agencies and ships at sea of threatening systems. It also reduces confusion when two or more storms are swirling at the same time.

The damage figures for the letter-based categories were calculated using the center`s list of the 30 costliest storms, as well as systems whose names were retired. But ultimately, it`s a curiosity and offers no hints of what a future storm may do.

"You need to be thinking first that you`ve got a hurricane to deal with," Feltgen said.


(c)2012 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)


Story Image: Flooding from an overtopped levee inundated the community of Braithwaite, La. with floodwaters from Hurricane Isaac Thursday, August 30, 2012. The levee break in the foreground was cut to relieve the flooding. Isaac soaked Louisiana for yet another day and pushed more water into neighborhoods all around the city, flooding homes and forcing last-minute evacuations and rescues. New Orleans itself was spared, thanks in large part to a levee system built after Katrina. (AP Photo/The Times-Picayune, John McCusker)

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