Hurricane History: Fascinating Facts

Hurricanes and other natural disasters continue to terrify, bewilder and sometimes even fascinate us. Here, some interesting facts about these superstorms.

Speed demons: A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have a sustained speed of 74 miles per hour or greater. They are classified into five categories '- a Category 5 storms bears winds above 155 miles per hour.

Eyes wide shut: A hurricane's eye '- the relatively calm center '- is usually 20 to 30 miles wide, and the rest of the storm can extend as many as 400 miles from it.

A far-from-perfect storm: In 1900, perhaps the most deadly hurricane to affect the U.S. hit Galveston, Texas, and took about 8,000 lives.

Show me the money: The costliest storm was 1992's Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 that caused more than $26.2 billion worth of property damage to South Florida and parts of Louisiana.

A hurricane by any other name: Storms that originate in the Pacific Ocean are called typhoons.

Ladies first: Naming hurricanes is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Natives of the West Indies named storms after the particular saint's day on which they occurred. In 1953, the U.S. weather service began using female first names for hurricanes, but it wasn't until 1978 that men's names were included too.

Early retirement: Whenever a hurricane's had a major impact '- socially or financially '- any country affected by it can request that the storm's name be retired, which means it can't be used again for at least 10 years.

The sunshine state: Florida has had more hurricanes than any other state. Over 60 have touched down there since 1900.

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