At 4:30 Tuesday morning, Hurricane Dean came ashore with whopping 165 mph winds near Costa Maya, Mexico. The storm's structure was reminiscent of Katrina, Rita and Wilma back in 2005. And like those storms, it broke some records. With its central pressure of 906 millibars, Dean became the 9th most powerful hurricane on record in the Atlantic Basin. It is the 3rd most powerful hurricane to make landfall in the Atlantic region, and it's the first category 5 hurricane to strike land since Hurricane Andrew obliterated parts of South Florida on August 24, 1992.
Data from Hurricane Hunter Planes played a crucial role in determining the storm's intensity. We can now receive 30-second updates on the plane's location, the winds it's measuring and the temperature it's observing. This gives us an unparalleled understanding of the storm's intensity and structure.
Even though Katrina, Rita and Wilma were all category 5 hurricanes two years ago, none of those storms made landfall at that level. They all reached the United States as category 3 storms.