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Hurricane Samuel was a long-lived, monstrous hurricane that, at its peak, packed winds of up to 450 mph (720 km/h) and a pressure of 550 millibars. The storm was, besides Typhoon Noelani in Japan, the strongest storm on record. It also was second largest, with a diameter exceeding 2,500 miles (4,000 km) when it was in the Gulf of Mexico, and about 1,800 miles wide when it hit New York City. The storm left millions dead all along the East Coast of the US, Florida, and the Caribbean.

Meteorological History

File:Super Hurricane Michael Map.png

Hurricane Samuel started when a tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa, on August 19. With water temperatures of 90*F (32*C) and low vertical wind shear, the wave created a tropical depression, which intensified into a tropical storm over 12 hours while maintaining a forward speed of 10 mph (16 km/h). Named Samuel, it continued to intensify, and after 15 hours, the storm intensified into a Category 3 hurricane, with a pressure of 948 millibars and 125 mph (200 km/h) winds. With warm waters all around the storm (sea surface temperatures averaged out between 86 and 90*F, or 30 to 32*C), Samuel eventually grew to a low-end Category 6 hurricane (packing winds of 190 mph, or 305 km/h), with a pressure of 890 millibars, and the storm grew to a diameter exceeding 750 miles (1,200 km) across.

On August 27, just 48 hours before hitting the Windward Islands, Samuel quickly intensified into a Category 7 hurricane, with winds of 235 mph and a pressure of 830 millibars. It also increased its forward speed, to 15 mph (24 km/h). The storm continued to intensify, eventually hitting Dominica with winds of 235 mph (335 km/h) and 836 millibars. Hurricane-force winds extended as far north as Antigua – 135 miles (217 km) north of the eye – and as far south as the southern tip of St. Lucia – 100 miles south of the eye.

The storm continued to intensify, and it eventually reached wind speeds of 265 mph (425 km/h) and a pressure of 790 millibars just as it was passing south of Jamaica, on August 30, because of ocean temperatures averaging out at approximately 95*F (35*C). The storm then hit Cozumel as a 1,000-mile-wide storm, with a 30-mile-wide eye, 37.5-mile-wide eyewall, and 300 mph (480 km/h) winds and a pressure of 750 millibars.

It then passed into the Gulf of Mexico, with 250 mph winds and a pressure of 796 millibars, where water temperatures between 100*F (38.4*C) and 104*F (40*C) fueled tropical cyclone intensification. In 24 hours, Michael became the strongest storm on the planet, with wind speeds of 435 mph (705 km/h) and a pressure of 590 millibars. The hurricane also grew to massive proportions, from 1,000 miles to an estimated 2,500 miles (4,000 km). Moving at a speed of 15 mph (24 km/h), it then hit Florida full-force. It hit the city of Tampa with wind speeds exceeding 450 mph (720 km/h) and a pressure of 550 millibars, while crossing Florida at a speed of 15 mph. The storm hit Orlando with wind speeds exceeding 375 mph (600 km/h). Three hours later, on September 7, the storm exited Florida with 310-mph (500 km/h) winds and a pressure of 720 millibars.

As the storm exited into the Atlantic Ocean, Samuel began to intensify again, as waters in the Atlantic (particularly near the Gulf Stream) averaged out above 99*F (37*C), while waters as warm as 83.3*F (28.5*C) extended over 400 feet (121 meters). Water temperatures exceeding 81.5*F (27.5*C), with 77*F (25*C) temperatures extending at a depth of 200 feet or lower, extended as far north as Halifax, Nova Scotia and London, England, further complicating matters. The hurricane moved at a speed of 15 mph, absorbing all of this warm water. The storm system eventually grew to a massive 1,800 miles across in 24 hours, while the tropical cyclone dropped 50 millibars over a process of 24 hours, to 670 millibars, while the winds increased from 310 mph (500 km/h) to 350 mph (560 km/h). At nine in the evening on September 10, the storm system was estimated to have the following features:

  • A 40-mile-wide eye,
  • A 50-mile-wide eyewall,
  • wind speeds of 410 mph (655 km/h),
  • a pressure of 600 millibars (17.72 inHg),
  • hurricane-force winds extending 400 miles (640 km) from the eye, with tropical-gale-force winds extending 900 miles (1,450 km) from the eye, along with winds exceeding 100 mph (160 km/h) extending 200 miles from the eyewall, and...
  • ...wave heights exceeding 100 feet (30 meters), plus a potential to create a 200-foot (61 meter) storm surge.

The storm then increased forward motion, to a speed of 20 mph. At 1500 hours Eastern Standard Time, on September 11, 2020, the storm hit just south of New York, producing winds of 400 mph that lasted for hours on end. The storm then suddenly swung north, at approximately 1730 hours Eastern Standard Time, moving north. The storm then hit Montreal with winds of 235 mph (380 km/h) and a pressure of 800 millibars, which lasted for hours on end, as the storm moved through the region at 30 mph. The storm swung toward the east, finally dying out on September 15.

Impact

Besides Typhoon Noelani, this was the worst storm the world had ever seen. Besides leaving millions dead, the storm system had effectively left the entire United States of America bankrupt, after it devastated the entire Northeastern region of the US. The nuclear explosion that occurred at the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant exasperated the destruction.

Windward Islands

As the hurricane moved toward the Windward Islands, the storm system quickly intensified into a major hurricane, with wind speeds recorded at approximately 235 mph (380 km/h) and a pressure of 836 millibars. The storm extended a total diameter exceeding 750 miles (1,200 km), so the storm affected the entire region.

In Dominica, the storm hit the capital directly, producing a storm surge of 30 feet. Over 800 people were killed all around the island.

A total of 2,900 people perished around the islands.

Jamaica

Hurricane-force winds and heavy rain caused landslides on the island. A total of 100 people perished. $500 million in damage was done. In Kingston, gusts in excess of 100 mph caused damage to structures that were still damaged from Hurricane Karl's wrath just several weeks earlier.

Mexico

Cozumel was struck directly by the hurricane, as the hurricane's wind were estimated to be above 300 mph (480 km/h). The enormous size of the storm helped to produce a storm surge of 50 feet, killing over 20,000 on the island and in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Hours later, when Hurricane Samuel quickly intensified, the storm dumped hurricane-force winds, extreme rainfall, and even storm surges into the region, killing over 30,000 more.

Cuba

When Hurricane Samuel moved into the Gulf of Mexico, Cuba was exposed to hurricane-force winds for days. Havana, Cuba was exposed to gusts exceeding 145 mph (230 km/h), along with swells exceeding 40 feet (12 meters). High amounts of precipitation caused massive amounts of flooding. River flooding, combined with high winds and heavy rain, killed over 50,000 people.

United States of America

Due to extremely warm waters in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane Samuel quickly intensified into the strongest storm ever recorded, besides Noelani. The hurricane devastated both the Gulf Coast and the East Coast of the US.

Texas

By the time Hurricane Samuel was done intensifying, winds in excess of 60 to 80 mph (96 to 130 km/h) and average rainfall exceeding four inches (100 mm) per hour was being dumped all over the coast. Houston, in particular, was in trouble because of its proximity to the storm and due to the fact that it, and the rest of the coast, was still recovering from the wrath of Hurricane Karl. The storm produced major floods that killed a total of 2,000 people, many from the storm surge, heavy rains, and even a major tornado outbreak. Port Author reported over 500 deaths, adding the death toll to 2,500.

Louisiana

When Hurricane Samuel reached maximum intensity in the Gulf of Mexico, it dumped an average of seven inches of rain an hour on top of New Orleans. Combined with average gusts in excess of 135 mph (217 km/h) and a storm surge well over 20 feet, the levees in the city broke, producing floods that killed a total of 50,000 in the city alone. Over 25,000 others died in Baton Rouge and other cities. The Mississippi River, at one point, covered an average width equal to the Great Salt Lake in size. Over 50,000 more perished due to disease and famine.

Alabama

The extreme rainbands produced major floods, high winds, tornadoes, and even a major storm surge, which killed over 7,500 people.

Mississippi

Samuel produced major floods and tornadoes in Mississippi, killing thousands of people.

Florida

After intensifying into "the strongest force on the planet", according to the National Weather Service, the storm hit Tampa and St. Petersburg directly on September 6. Hurricane-force winds extended as far down as parts of Cuba, and as far north as Georgia, with 100 mph (160 km/h) winds extending as far south as 150 miles (240 km), as far north as 120 miles (190 km), as far east as 120 miles (190 km), and as far west as 75 miles (120 km). As Michael came to shore, 100-mph-winds produced waves in excess of 33 feet (10 meters), causing death and destruction to the region.

The storm produced 450 mph (720 km/h) winds that lasted for three hours. The 450-mph winds leveled everything within 50 miles (80 km) of the 40-mile-wide (64-km wide) eye. As the storm hit, it also produced a storm surge exceeding 200 feet (61 meters) in the eyewall. Every city as far south as Fort Myers experienced a storm surge of 80 feet (24 meters) that moved inland at 15 mph, almost like a slow-moving tsunami. The storm surge flooded through the state in some areas, leaving millions more dead. Out of the one million trapped in the region, none survived.

After killing untold thousands of people in the region, the storm continued east-northeast, eventually hitting the city of Orlando with wind speeds exceeding 375 mph (600 km/h) and a recorded pressure of 680 millibars (20.10 inHg). Just like in Tampa, the storm leveled many famous areas in Orlando, including Disneyworld and Downtown Disney. The city was leveled, with over 500,000 dead in and around the city and over $375 billion in damage.

Gusts in excess of 150 mph were recorded in Miami and Jacksonville, while Sarasota recorded the same gusts about ten hours before landfall. Due to the Miami's geological structure underneath the city, the heavy rainfall caused massive erosion of the ground, causing multiple sinkholes to pop up. Eventually, the entire city sank into the ocean (the entire process took just six minutes), causing floods that, combined with Category 4 or 5-level gusts, killed over 100,000 people.

The storm eventually exited out of Florida on September 7, at about two in the morning. The storm left over two trillion dollars in damage and left about 10,750,000 dead, with over 250,000 more missing. The storm left hundreds of thousands more injured and/or homeless.

Mid-Atlantic States

The storm system left several of the Mid-Atlantic States in shambles, especially in the upper states.

Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

As Samuel hit New York, gigantic rainbands caused many parts of Maryland and Virginia to experience tremendous floods and hurricane-force winds. The high winds shattered glass windows, knocked down trees, and damaged homes. Floods poured off many rivers in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, causing thousands of casualties in a region that had already suffered due to Hurricane Cristobal, which affected the region in June and killed thousands. In Washington, D.C., winds in excess of 90 mph (145 km/h) caused tree damage and roof damage. A total of 10,000 people die in DC, while another 2,000 die in Baltimore. Hundreds more perish in Virginia.

Pennsylvania

High winds and floods caused thousands of deaths and hundreds of billions in damage all along Philadelphia and other communities. The city recorded gusts well beyond 150 mph (240 km/h), while major floods caused major destruction all over the region.

Delaware

Samuel also killed tens of thousands in Delaware, as winds exceeding 125 mph produced enormous storm surges, devastating large parts of the area.

New York

As the hurricane moved into New York, the storm produced high winds exceeding 100 mph long before the storm hit. The increasingly growing wind speeds shattered glass windows, toppled trees, and even destroyed multiple homes, while the heavy rain caused massive flooding along the Hudson River, which barged into Lower Manhatten. The storm surge caused problems long before the main storm surge hit, and by the time the eyewall was estimated to be an hour from landfall, the storm surge was estimated to be exceeding 30 feet in some areas of New York. An hour before landfall, gusts were estimated to have reached beyond 250 mph (400 km/h), and sustained winds were approximately 200 mph (320 km/h). Several of the city's skyscrapers, including the One World Trade Center and the Empire State Building, collapsed under the sheer weight of the flooding and the high winds.

Samuel then made landfall, producing high winds exceeding 400 mph, and a storm surge exceeding 230 feet (70 meters) flooded dozens of miles inland. Out of the 6 million trapped in the city, only a few thousand survived. The high winds caused incalculable destruction, with no skyscrapers left standing. Most of the survivors were in other areas that weren't affected by the storm surge. The storm system caused a massive tidal bore that flooded far inland, affecting areas as far north as Albany, New York.

The storm also destroyed the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, spreading radioactive material as far south as Virginia, and as far west as western Pennsylvania and the Ohio River Valley.

Long Island was already devastated by the time the storm hit New York City, leaving another three million dead. Many towns were completely devastated by the high tide and the storm surge, while gusts well beyond 300 mph (480 km/h) pelted the region for hours on end. For areas not affected by the surge, many homes were wiped out by the high winds. Both Northern Long Island and Southern Long Island were flooded by a storm surge.

The storm system leveled every structure in the city, and caused death and destruction in its path, even causing tremendous flooding and tornadoes as far west as Buffalo. All total, well over half of New York's population was immediately killed by Michael, leading to 12,500,000 dead. Another two million perished from disease, famine, and many more died from the nuclear disaster “up north”.

New England

The hurricane produced a storm surge that devastated Rhode Island and Connecticut. The storm surge was actually "flung" through Long Island Sound into the Connecticut coast, flooding miles inland and killing hundreds of thousands. In Connecticut, an hour before Michael hit the coast, Stamford recorded winds exceeding 180 mph (290 km/h). The high winds began to knock over structures, and multiple bridges were crushed by the massive floods.

As far north as Boston, wind speeds exceeding 85 mph (135 km/h) and a storm surge exceeding 16.5 feet (5 meters) caused problems all over the region. The storm surge flooded over two miles inland, while the winds caused major problems. Gusts of 130 mph (210 km/h) caused thousands of casualties and billions of dollars in damage.

Canada

Samuel swung to the north, moving into Canada at a forward speed exceeding 30 mph (48 km). Due to its size and wind speeds, the storm killed thousands in Montreal, Quebec City, and other cities in Canada. The city of Montreal recorded winds speeds exceeding 150 mph (240 km/h) for over 7 hours, causing tremendous amounts of death and destruction. Much of Quebec and parts of Ontario suffered flooding and high wind damage. Toronto experienced hurricane-force winds and rainfall averaging up to two inches per hour for up to thirty-six hours, while tornadoes caused destruction throughout the entire region. Damages reached $500 billion in property and economic damages. The total death toll was over two million.

Aftermath

Hurricane Samuel left many cities completely destroyed. Much of New England and the Mid-Atlantic States were left uninhabitable. The storm was so strong that it literally scoured parts of Long Island and New York clean. Parts of Long Island were left permanently underwater, along with parts of New Jersey and New York.

In Florida, every city in the storm's path was devastated, especially Orlando and the Tampa Metropolitan Area. Florida was left bankrupt, and parts of Tampa were actually left permanently underwater. St. Petersburg was turned into “St. Petersburg Island”, thanks to the high winds and storm surge. Much of the west coast of Florida was literally eroded away, and much of the state is underwater.

The Caribbean nations were also affected by the storm, and Michael had caused even more economic turmoil in the region.

In total, over 60,000,000 people were left dead, with over 1,000,000 more missing. Over $5 trillion in damage was done.

It is likely going to take years for the region to return to normal.

See Also

  • Typhoon Noelani, a 4,500-mile-wide super typhoon that hit Japan with 500-mph winds and a tsunami-like storm surge.

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