"The storm has entered the Gulf." For those who live or travel
near the Gulf of Mexico, this ominous announcement commands
attention, especially given the frequency and force of hurricane
strikes in recent years. Since 2004, the shores around the Gulf of
Mexico have been in the crosshairs for an increasing number of
hurricanes and tropical storms, including Charley and Wilma in
southwestern Florida and Ivan, Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and
Ike along the northern Gulf coast from Panama City to near
Galveston. In this definitive guide, climatologists Barry D. Keim
and Robert A. Muller examine the big picture of Gulf hurricanes --
from the 1800s to the present and from Key West, Florida, to
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula -- providing an extraordinary
compilation and interpretation of the entire region's hurricane and
tropical storm history.
Drawing from their own research and from National Hurricane
Center records, Keim and Muller examine numerous individual Gulf
storms, considering each hurricane's origin, oceanic and
atmospheric influences, seasonality, track, intensity, size, point
of landfall, storm surge, and impact on life, property, and the
environment. They describe the unique features of the Gulf that
influence the development of hurricanes, such as the loop current
and its eddies, and identify areas of the coastline that are more
or less vulnerable because of physical environment, socioeconomic
environment, or both. They point out that the increase in
population along the Gulf Coast over the past century has led to a
rise in hurricane damage as once sparse coastlines are now lined
with residents, commerce, and industry. In addition, they assess
predicted hurricane activity for coming years in light of competing
climate theories as well as cyclical patterns over the past
Keim and Muller begin their book by scrutinizing the Gulf's
deadliest storm, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, whose victims
received little to no warning of its approach. They then retrace
2005's Hurricane Katrina, the most costly storm, using NHC
advisories and reports. Their comparison of these two catastrophic
events shows that despite 105 years of tremendous technological
advances, hurricanes remain ultimately rather unpredictable and
human warning, readiness, and response measures continue to be
imperfect. Keim and Muller also detail other memorable Gulf storms
-- the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, Audrey, Betsy, Camille,
Gilbert, Andrew, Wilma, and more -- and give the hurricane strike
records from 1901 to 2005 at thirty locations around the Gulf. They
extend the New Orleans hurricane strike record back to the middle
of the nineteenth century, providing key insight into comparisons
of storm activities during the two centuries.
An epilogue summarizes the destructive 2008 hurricane season,
including storms Dolly, Gustav, and Ike. Plentiful maps, charts,
tables, graphs, and photos, along with anecdotal observations and
an informative text, make Hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico a
captivating and useful volume for Gulf residents, storm trackers,
or anyone fascinated by the weather.
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