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Hurricanes never happen here... or do they?

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"Naples just isn't hit by tropical storms and hurricanes!" some will tell you. A look at records
from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service shows that
we may be hit more often than you think!

In 1960, when hurricane 'Donna' struck, there were approximately 15,500 people living full time in Collier County. Today there is nearly 300,000 residents, most of whom have never been through a severe land-falling hurricane, even though they lived through the 2004 hurricane season. We have come to southwest Florida from all over the country and around the world, and we would all like to believe that we are safe from the ravages of hurricanes.

After all, how often is Collier County struck by tropical weather? Records kept by the National Weather Service date back to 1851, or 153 years as this is written. In that time 73 tropical storms and hurricanes have passed within 75 nautical miles of Naples, or one nearly every 2.1 years! Of those, 40 have been tropical storms with winds of less than 74 miles per hour. That also means at 33 have been hurricanes, or one about every 4.7 years!

Ah, but they're all small hurricanes aren't they? Let's take a look:

  • Sixteen major hurricanes in 153 years averages out to 1 every 7.7 years!
  • 14 have been category three, one has been category four and one was a category five.

Those numbers may be a little frightening to the relative newcomer. Remember though, that some of those storms passed by offshore or well inland: still within 75 nautical miles of Naples, but not a direct hit. When we follow tropical systems we track the "center" of the storm, the point where the lowest barometric pressure is reported. Tropical storms and hurricanes are all unique, with poorly defined broad centers in some events, and tightly wound well-defined eyes in others. Tropical storm force wind fields may extend from 35 miles to 250 miles from the storm's center. Hurricane force winds may range from non existent to well over a hundred miles from the center. The data from the weather service, addressed below, details the type storm and other information by month.

The details are interesting:

Collier County Storms By Month, Category & Origin
A = Atlantic C = Caribbean G = Gulf

TSCat 1Cat 2Cat 3Cat 4Cat 5Total

A

C

G

A

C

G

A

C

G

A

C

G

A

C

G

A

C

G

 
Feb   1                                 1
May     1               1               1
Jun 1 3                                 5
Jul 1 1 2                               4
Aug 6 1 1     1       1     2           12
Sep 3 1 3 2     1     6 2   2           20
Oct 2 8 2   3     4   1 5               25
Nov   2 1     1                         4
Dec         1                           1
Total

13

17

10

2

4

2

1

4

0

8

8

0

4

0

0

0

0

0

73

Tropical Storms: 40
Category One: 8
Category Two: 5
Category Three: 16
Category Four: 4
Category Five: 5

May to mid-July: Mostly Caribbean in origin, usually land falling
Mid-July through mid-October: Atlantic originations, usually exiting, but not always!
Mid-October to December: Gulf and Caribbean in origin, mostly land falling

Now THAT Was a Close Call!
(Center Less Than 20 Miles From Naples)

Tropical Storms: 1861, 1878, 1891, 1899, 1907, 1932, 1936, 1945, 1953, 1969 (Jenny), 1985 (Bob), 1994 (Gordon), 1998 (Mitch), 1999 (Harvey)

Hurricanes: 1870,1894, 1910, 1926, 1929, 1941, 1947, 1960 (Donna), ('Andrew' passed 35 miles south of Naples in 1992)  

Hang on To Your Hat!
Winds Greater Than 96 mph (Category 2+) within 75 nautical miles of Naples

1865 (100 mph), 1873 (115 mph), 1876 (104 mph), 1888 (113 mph), 1894 (104 mph), 1910 (126 mph), 1924 (104mph), 1926 (130 mph.), 1929 (115 mph), 1935 (146 mph.), 1941 (121mph), 1944 (127 mph), 1945 (127 mph), 1946 (113 mph), 1947 (147 mph), 1948 (115 mph), 1950 (115 mph), 1950 (107 mph) 1960 (Donna, 129 mph), 1964 (Isbell, 115 mph), 1965 (Betsy, 124 mph), 1966 (Alma, 120 mph), 1992 (144 mph, Andrew's winds were less than 95 mph at Naples, but higher on Marco Island and in Everglades City), 2004 (Charley, 145mph), & 2004 (Jeanne, 120 mph)

Wind Blown Facts!
Things you may not have known about tropical storms and hurricanes in Collier County . .  

  • The first storm of record to hit Naples....
    The earliest tropical system to ever strike Collier County was a “No
    Name” Tropical Storm on November 1, 1861. This storm formed in the Gulf on the morning of the first and passed through Naples that afternoon, headed to the northeast at 20 miles per hour. Naples felt winds of 65 miles per hour.
  • But it's NOT the Hurricane Season!
    The latest tropical system to ever affect Collier County was a tropical storm on December 1, 1925. The center missed Naples by 67 nautical miles as the storm raced off toward the northeast at 25 miles per hour. Still, winds of 75 miles per hour swept through the area. This storm also showed that we could be hit even in a quiet year. The December storm was only the second of the year! The earliest storm, a “No Name” one, affected Naples on February 3, 1952. Its winds were 48 miles per hour and the closest it got to Naples was 56 nautical miles.
  • Oh No! Not Again!
    Contrary to legend, lightning can strike twice in the same place (and often does). So too can tropical weather. Six times in history two storms have affected Collier County in the same year:
    • In 1888 a westbound hurricane on August 17 passed within 22 miles of Naples with 86 mile per hour winds, and a tropical storm passed by within 73 miles on September 8. Winds at Naples were over 40 mph.
    • Two tropical storms passed within 25 miles of Naples on June 15 and July 29, 1936.
    • Nine years later (1945) saw a tropical storm on September 4 and a major hurricane (111 mph winds) 12 days later.
    • Tropical storms again hit on August 29 and October 9, 1953, both passing less than 50 miles from Naples.
    • In 1960, Donna stuck on September 10-11, making land fall at Everglades City. Less than two weeks later a tropical storm made land fall at nearly the same spot!
    • In September 1998, Collier County evacuated south of US 41 for Hurricane 'Georges', but the storm veered westward at the last minute, and passed the county by. In October, Tropical Storm 'Mitch' (the left overs of the deadly Caribbean Category 5 super hurricane) passed directly over Naples.
    • In 1999, on September 21st, Tropical Storm Harvey passed 16 miles to the south of Naples heading east; producing 58 mph winds. It was more of a “rain event” causing flooded streets and cars, than a “wind event”. Then on October 15th Hurricane Irene hit Collier County from the south, heading east-northeast, with 75 mph winds. Luckily, her effects were minor because we were on the dry-side of the system.
  • Anyone for a "hat-trick?"
    In ice hockey, scoring three goals in a game is a "hat trick." Collier County saw a tropical weather "hat trichatk" in 1891 and again in 2004!
    In 1981,
    • On August 25, a tropical storm passing 19 miles from Naples spread 55 mile per hour winds over the area.
    • The October 7 storm brought 41 mph winds as it passed within 54 miles.
    • Just two days later (October 9) the third storm in six weeks passed within 44 miles, and 45 mph winds passed through the area! (And you thought there wasn't a lot of tropical activity in the Naples area. . .)
    Then, in 2004, although the “official numbers” are not in, the 2004 season produced another
    • We estimate Category 4 Hurricane Charley passed Naples as close as 38 miles on Friday the 13th of August with 74mph winds in the northwest portion of the County and moderate rains.
    • Then Category 3 Hurricanes Frances (September 5) and Jeanne (September 26) followed almost the identical tracks on the southeast coast of Florida. Although Collier County only experienced tropical storm force winds, we experienced very little rains and very minor damages.
  • What's that name again?
    Hurricanes and Tropical Storms were not named until 1950, and it didn't take long for a named storm to affect Collier County. Hurricane "Easy" passed by 54 miles offshore (101 mph winds at Naples) on September 3. Hurricane"Easy" is well remembered for the double loop it did in the Gulf a couple of days later, before going inland in the Tampa Bay area.  
  • They went that-a-way!
    Usually, tropical weather moves through our area headed toward the northeast or northwest. Looking at a compass dial, one storm was moving due north as it passed (Tropical storm "Dennis," which made landfall near Everglades City on August 17, 1981). The most common direction of travel was toward the north and east, with 37 storms passing headed between 0 and 90 degrees. Just two passed moving south of east, one south of west, two directly to the west and 30 moving between 271 and 359 degrees. Major hurricanes usually come from the east.

    Of the 25 category two or greater storms, seven have moved toward the northwest (exiting the state on the west coast which reduces storm surge here), and just eight to the northeast. It's the storms which strike just to the north of us coming out of the Gulf toward the northeast that can cause the most dangerous storm surges.
  • Don't Threaten Me!
    While this page deals with the 73 storms which have passed within 75 nautical miles of Naples, it doesn't discuss those that have been close enough to offer a serious threat to the area, even requiring evacuation and shelter openings before the storm moved away.

    Examples: "David" (1979) and "Alberto" (1982). Nor does it deal with the extra-tropical storms, the so-called "no name" storms such as the ones in June of 1982 and March of 1993. Neither of these storms, nor Tropical Storm "Jerry" in 1995, was closer to Naples than 250 miles! Given the actual strikes and the close call threats, Collier County has had to deal with a tropical threat about every 18 months, or twice every three seasons.

    In September 1998, Collier County evacuated the areas south of US-41 for Hurricane Georges, but the storm veered westward at the last minute and passed the county by. Another close call came in 2004 with Category 5 Hurricane Ivan, south of Cuba and aiming directly for Collier County. Because of the size and intensity of the storm Collier County have to prepare and react as if it were to be hit. Luckily Hurricane Ivan drifted to the west and passed into the Gulf at the west end of Cuba missing Collier County altogether, except for the slight storm surge effects as it passed.
  • Watch out for that Warning!
    The National Hurricane Center issues tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings.
    • Typically, a WATCH is issued 36 to as much as 48 hours before conditions are expected in the area. A watch means that tropical storm or hurricane conditions could reach the area in 24-36 hours.
    • A WARNING will come around 24 hours before. A warning means you should expect the storm within 24 hours.
    Lead times for watches can be increased, but longer lead times will mean more false alarms as storms take another course.

    It is virtually impossible for a hurricane to sneak up on us and strike with no warning, but it's not unheard of for us to miss the watch phase and go directly to a warning as some systems can develop quickly and close by. Be ready to move quickly. In the last few years, there was no time for a watch with "Alberto" (1982), "Keith" (1988), or "Marco" (1990).

Monitor the tropics through local radio and television, the Collier County Emergency Management Tropical Weather PageNOAA Weather Radio on 162.525 (Naples), and "The Weather Channel" at 50 minutes after the hour from June through November. Consult your cable operator for channel information.