Whirlwind Tour: A Glimpse at the Wet and Windy History of the Hurricane

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Hurricane Kate slammed into northwest Florida on November 21, 1985 as a category two storm. It ripped through Tallahassee, downing huge trees and power lines. Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell remembers the destruction that forced people to realize hurricanes can hit very late in the year.

Sheriff Larry Campbell says, "The transportation being lost, the electricity being lost, so many people had trees in their houses, so many peoples’ cars got smashed."

Kate left about $300 million worth of damage in her wake.

Twenty years later, there is no evidence on this same street of the damage caused by Hurricane Kate, but although November storms are rare, the memories prove they’re not out of the question.

At Florida State University, researcher Mark Jordan says strong upper-level winds and colder water temperatures tend to prevent the formation of tropical storms in November. They only average about one every other year. But as Kate shows, they can pack a wallop.

Mark Jordan says, “Mitch in 1998 was another example. It developed in late October and lasted into the early part of November, and it was a category five also, so you don’t get them normally, but they can be very strong.”

There have only been seven hurricanes in the Gulf in November since record-keeping began in the mid 1800s, but after this record-breaking hurricane season, storm victims probably aren’t taking anything for granted.

Last year, Tropical Storm Otto formed in the Atlantic on the final day of hurricane season, November 30, but it never threatened land.