Let’s walk through some of the more impressive statistics.
Strongest landfall winds (tie): Hurricane Dorian’s 185 mph (160 knots) sustained wind at landfall on Great Abaco in the northwest Bahamas this afternoon tied for the strongest winds at landfall on record in the Atlantic Ocean. The only other storm with wind speeds that high at landfall is the similarly timed Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Dorian may have produced gusts as high as 220 mph.
Tied for second when it comes to maximum winds in the Atlantic. Dorian’s 185 mph sustained winds are second only to Hurricane Allen (1980) in the record that dates to the 1850s. Allen topped out at 190 mph sustained. Hurricane Dorian’s 185 mph sustained puts the storm in company with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Hurricane Gilbert (1988) and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.
Strongest storm on record for the Bahamas. This may go without saying given the bullets above, but it’s worth repeating — and zooming in on the hardest-hit places in the northwest parts of the island nation. Before Dorian, its worst storm was the 1932 Bahamas hurricane, which passed by with 160 mph winds as a Category 5. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 also passed just south of Dorian’s Bahamian landfall zone but wasn’t nearly as strong as Dorian.
Strongest storm on record east of Florida and north of the Caribbean: Whether your metric of strength is wind speed or low pressure (the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm), Dorian places first for the most intense in this zone.
Gaining strength at record speed: Dorian underwent what’s known as rapid intensification between both Friday and Saturday and Saturday and Sunday. Rapid intensification refers to an increase in wind speeds of at least 35 mph in 24 hours. Dorian entered rare air for this metric, too. In a space of just nine hours on Sunday, its peak winds increased from about 150 mph (130 knots) to 185 mph (160 knots) — a rate of intensification never before observed for a storm this strong:
First time with four consecutive years featuring Category 5s in the Atlantic: 2019 became the fourth straight year with a Category 5 in the Atlantic, the longest such streak on record. Dorian became the fifth Category 5 hurricane to form in the past four years in the Atlantic following Matthew (2016), Irma (2017), Maria (2017) and Michael (2018). No matter how you count it, the overall trend in such powerhouse storms is upward.
As you may have gathered following our storm coverage, Hurricane Dorian isn’t going anywhere fast, so we could see more records set.
The unusual strength of Dorian and the rate at which it developed is consistent with the expectation of more intense hurricanes in a warming world. Some studies have shown increases in hurricane rapid intensification, and modeling studies project an uptick in the frequency of Category 4 and 5 storms.