Category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin: Interesting statistics

This page provides some basic, but very interesting statistics about category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic basin since 1851.  Category 5 storms are extremely rare.  In fact, only 34* category 5 storms (~4% of all hurricanes) are found in the historical record.  In the 165 years since records began (1851), there have only been six years that contained two or more category 5 storms; the most in one season was four in 2005 (Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). 

The longest periods without a category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic basin:

  • #1: 15 Years (1939-1953)
  • #2:  9 Years (2008-2016) Discussed in the next section below

2016: Hurricane Matthew Becomes First Category 5 in over 9 Years

On the evening of Friday, September 30, 2016, following a period of rapid intensification over the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew was upgraded to category 5 status — the first category 5 in the Atlantic basin in over 9 years (since Hurricane Felix in 2007). 

Prior to Hurricane Matthew’s upgrade, the duration without a category 5 stood at: 9 years and 26 days -or- 3314 days.  This was the SECOND longest period on record.

Time since the last category 5
Hurricane Matthew on September 30, 2016
Real-time Count As of Today:
1 year, 1 month and 20 days


Previous Count ending 9/30/16
Since Hurricane Felix on 9/4/07
9 years and 26 days -or- 3314 days
Second longest period on record

Note: The count begins with, and includes, the day after the last category 5 dissipated, ending with and including the day before the next category 5 developed. Hurricane Felix weakened from a category 5 on September 4, 2007, so the duration is counted from 9/5/2007 through 9/29/2016.

Location of Hurricane Matthew at Upgrade (Not Current)

Hurricane Matthew's position and forecast path issued on Saturday 10/1/16 at 2 am EDT.

Hurricane Matthew’s position and forecast path issued on Saturday 10/1/16 at 2 am EDT.

Atlantic Basin Category 5 Storms: Quick Stats

  • Category 5 storms are extremely rare
  • Only 4% of hurricanes reach category 5 status (based on historical data 1851 through 2016)*
  • Only 34 category 5 hurricanes are found in the historical record (1851 to present = 166 years)* 
  • There have only been six years with two or more category 5 storms (1932, 1933, 1960, 1961, 2005, 2007)
  • The most in a single season was four in 2005 (Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma)
  • The majority of category 5 hurricanes have occurred in September (20 storms = 57%)*
  • No category 5 storms have been recorded during the months of December through June

*Stats Updated: 10/1/16 to include Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Felix, September 3, 2007

Hurricane Felix, September 3, 2007

Category 5 Hurricanes that “Hit” the U.S.

Note: These storms were category 5 when they made landfall. There have certainly been other storms that were category 5 but weakened just before making landfall. An example is Hurricane Katrina which was a category 5 in the Gulf of Mexico, but weakened to category 3 strength prior to landfall.

  • Only 4 hurricanes have made landfall in the United States as a category 5
  • Hurricanes that were category 5 at the time of landfall in the United States:
    1. “Labor Day” storm in 1935 (Florida Keys)
    2. “Beulah” in 1967 (S. TX)
    3. “Camille” in 1969 (SE Louisiana)
    4. “Andrew” in 1992 (S. FL)
Map showing the four hurricanes that made landfall in the United States as a category 5.  White line segments show the portion of the storms' track at category 5.

Map showing the four hurricanes that made landfall in the United States as a category 5. White line segments show the portion of the storms’ track at category 5.

Monthly Distribution of Category 5 Hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin

Note: Technically there have been 34 category 5 hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. However, the monthly distribution below adds up to 35 because Hurricane Matthew was upgraded to category 5 at 11 pm EDT on September 30 and was a category 5 into October; therefore, Matthew is counted twice. In the historical record, Hurricane Matthew is the only hurricane that straddles two months as a category 5.

  • July: 1 (3%)
  • August: 8 (23%)
  • September: 20 (57%) Updated: 10/1/16 to include Hurricane Matthew
  • October: 5 (14%) Updated: 10/1/16 to include Hurricane Matthew
  • November: 1 (3%)

 

 

List of Category 5 Hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin

Note: For best viewing on a mobile device, view horizontally.

Click here for description of column headers

NameYearStartEndDays SinceYrs SinceWind*Pres*
Unnamed192410-1910-19-999-999165910
Unnamed192809-1309-1414254160929
Unnamed193209-0509-0614524160921
Unnamed193211-0511-08600175915
Unnamed193308-3008-302951160930
Unnamed193309-2109-21220160929
"Labor Day"193509-0309-037122185892
"N. England"193809-1909-2011123160940
Carol195309-0309-03546215160929
Janet195509-2709-287542175914
Cleo195808-1608-1610533160948
Donna196009-0409-047502160930
Ethel196009-1509-15110160972
Carla196109-1109-113611175931
Hattie196110-3010-31490160920
Beulah196709-2009-2021506160923
Camille196908-1608-186962175900
Edith197109-0909-097522160943
Anita197709-0209-0221856175926
David197908-3008-317272175924
Allen198008-0508-093401190899
Gilbert198809-1309-1429578185888
Hugo198909-1509-153661160918
Andrew199208-2308-2410733175922
Mitch199810-2610-2822546180905
Isabel200309-1109-1417795165915
Ivan200409-0909-143611165910
Emily200507-1607-163051160929
Katrina200508-2808-29430175902
Rita200509-2109-22230180895
Wilma200510-1910-19270185882
Dean200708-1808-216682175905
Felix200709-0309-04130175929
Matthew201609-3010-0133149160934

Data pulled from the HURDAT database.


Atlantic Basin Category 5 Hurricane Tracks Since 1851

Category 5 Hurricanes 1851 to 2014.