Florida Could Soon See a Category 6 Hurricane
Hurricane Ian peaked as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 160 mph on September 28, 2022. The hurricane weakened slightly to become a high-end Category 4 hurricane with winds of 155 mph as it struck Cayo Costa. Many areas of Southwest Florida were completely devastated by one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit Florida. A category 5 hurricane is currently the highest-rated storm on the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale. But will they need to revise the scale and add a Category 6 Hurricane?
In a research paper submitted at MIT, with hurricane intensity increasing, they propose a need to expand the scale is needed. The current designation for a Cat 5 hurricane is wind speeds >157 mph. The proposal would be for Category 5 hurricanes to be classified with wind speeds from 157 to 192 mph. As reported by b1039, a new level, the Category 6 hurricane would be wind speeds >192 mph. Do we need this?
Five Category 5 storms exceeded the hypothetical category 6 level in the last 9 years. Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful hurricane on record, occurred in the Eastern Pacific making landfall in Jalisco, Mexico on October 23rd, 2015. Patricia’s highest winds were measured at 215 mph. A fortunate eyewall replacement occurred just before landfall, reducing the storm to a Category 4. The other hypothetical Category 6 storms happened in the Western Pacific. Can this level of intensity happen in the Atlantic, or Gulf Of Mexico?
Could Florida see a Category 6 Hurricane?
Hurricane Wilma was close. Wilma struck our Southwest Florida area as a Category 3 storm with 120 mph winds on October 24th, 2005. Before she arrived, Wilma had peak winds of 185 mph. Not enough to hit the proposed threshold to be a Category 6. Earlier that year, Hurricane Rita, which slid just below Florida in September of 2005 had maximum winds of 180 mph. Hurricane Katrina which made the most headlines that year, had a top speed of 174 mph. Many forget that Katrina crossed over Florida before heading to New Orleans.
According to NOAA, “June-August 2023 was also the Northern Hemisphere’s hottest meteorological summer on record.” So last summer was even hotter than the explosive hurricane season of 2005. Since ocean temperatures help fuel these gigantic storms, it’s no stretch to believe that the storms that hit Florida, could hit even harder in the future.
The US National Hurricane Center would be the one to make the changes, however, they’ve not made any announcement thus far. The Saffir–Simpson scale was first introduced in 1973, but with the intensity of some of the storms seen since then, maybe it is time for an update. Lastly, we’ve recently seen the immense damage caused by a category 4 hurricane. Let’s hope Florida never has to witness a Category 6.