Hurricane Ian Ranks as One of the Strongest Storms to Ever Strike Florida

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by GIORGIO VIERA/AFP via Getty Images)

Climate change has sent a multitude of hurricanes and tropical storms to devastate states bordering the Gulf of Mexico in recent years. One of the worst stricken though is Florida. Forecasters knew before it even struck Cuba that Hurricane Ian would cause loads of destruction. However, now, the United States’ most recent natural disaster has officially become one of the strongest hurricanes to ever strike Florida.

In fact, according to Fox Weather, Hurricane Ian ties as the fourth-strongest storm to ever make landfall in the state. Ian ties with the 2004 storm Hurricane Charley, which made landfall in nearly the exact same spot as Hurricane Ian. Both hurricanes initially struck near Cayo Costa, FL.

When Hurricane Ian made landfall in FL Wednesday afternoon, it struck as a Category 4 storm. Ian brought maximum sustained wind speeds reaching 150 miles per hour, coming just short of a Cat 5. Ian fell seven miles per hour below that on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

In comparison, Charley, which struck on August 13th, 2004 maxed out with wind speeds also at 150 miles per hour. The hurricane slammed into Florida’s coast also as a Category 4. The main difference between Hurricane Ian and Charley is that the latter kept a relatively small eye. As such, the most devastating winds were toward the storm’s center.

Top 3 Florida Hurricanes That Trump Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian, which weakened to a tropical storm since making landfall on Wednesday, continues to devastate regions across FL. Meanwhile, we’re reflecting on some of the strongest storms to ever strike the state. Aside from Ian and Charley, there were only three to trump the Sunshine’s state most recent natural disaster.

  1. Labor Day Hurricane (1935)
    The Labor Day Hurricane not only marks the strongest hurricane to strike the state of Florida, but also the United States overall. The Labor Day Hurricane struck on September 2nd, 1935, before weather forecasters even began naming individual hurricanes.

    The storm, a monstrous Category 5, was a difficult hurricane to trace, with meteorologists, emergency management crews, and first responders severely lacking the technology we have now to track every movement of every storm around the globe.

    Altogether, the 1935 hurricane claimed responsibility for more than 600 deaths, completely demolishing buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.
  2. Hurricane Andrew (1992)
    Making landfall in Elliot Key, FL on August 24th, 1992, Hurricane Andrew was once the most expensive hurricane in terms of damage before Hurricane Katrina completely devastated New Orleans and surrounding cities and states in 2005.

    Also a Category 5 hurricane, Andrew claimed several dozen lives and demolished entire neighborhoods. Per Fox Weather‘s account, Hurricane Andrew was made even more terrifying as, in the days that followed, Floridians were left without power, water, and resources. In addition, looters roamed affected neighborhoods, with gunfire erupting especially in South Dade.
  3. The third and final hurricane that trumps Hurricane Ian is the much more recent Hurricane Michael. Michael slammed the FL Panhandle on October 10th, 2018. Another Category 5 hurricane, Michael brought wind speeds so strong, clocked at 160 miles per hour, it managed to cut right through St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Storm surges created two inlets, making regions of the park no longer accessible by car.