16 years since the last hurricane hit land in the United States


If a major hurricane forms off the United States, it will be 15 years since the last one hit land.

The previous record, set in 2006, stood at 18 years — also the year that a colossal Category 5 hurricane named Katrina devastated New Orleans.

Hurricane Noel, which is currently battering the Bahamas, made landfall on New England’s East Coast on Friday night, with winds of 125 miles per hour. (The current record-holder for the longest time it took for a U.S. landfall to strike, is a Category 4 hurricane, with 130-mph winds, which struck Wisconsin in 1905).

Winds of 115 miles per hour or higher, are the strongest an Atlantic hurricane can reach when a Category 3 or higher. They come with a risk of direct wind damage.

Next month will mark the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Dennis, one of the worst storms of the year, the second hurricane of the 1997 Atlantic season, which led to at least seven deaths. It was not until Dennis passed over the Florida Keys that forecasters and reporters and bloggers decided to finally stop “pestering” meteorologists to get these kinds of violent storms recorded in their seasonal hurricane outlook.

The 1985 to 1992 hurricane season saw 10 hurricanes strike the United States, but it took until Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 for one to reach land, and for serious reconstruction, rebuilding and rebuilding again to begin.

Experts now say that the best time to watch for hurricanes in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico is this summer and fall, so that they don’t gather steam until later, or be driven by conditions such as a so-called “yoke of high pressure” that maintains a stable air mass over the tropics. A storm that forms later in the season, they say, is more likely to intensify.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Dennis, the deadly storm that hit Florida in 1995, made landfall on Florida’s east coast.

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