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Hurricane Ian upgraded to Category 5 before Florida landfall

After Hurricane Ian made landfall just over 6 months ago, the National Hurricane Center announced today the storm briefly reached Category 5 status before weakening, then slamming into southwest Florida.

After reanalyzing observations from the Air Force Reserve and NOAA Hurricane Hunters along with other data, the NHC concluded that Ian's peak intensity reached 160 mph on Sept. 28 at 8 a.m. EDT. To attain Category 5 status, a hurricane’s sustained winds must be at least 157 mph.

Over the next seven hours, Ian’s winds slightly decreased to 150 mph just before making landfall on the barrier island of Cayo Costa, Florida at 3:05 p.m EDT. Until today, Ian had been classified as a Category 4 hurricane.

It was just last Wednesday that the World Meteorological Organization forever retired “Ian” from the rotating lists of Atlantic tropical cyclone names due to the death and destruction caused in its path.

It is not unusual for the NHC to change a hurricane’s status after a post-storm analysis.

Seven months after Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle as a Category 4 storm, the NHC released a similar report saying that Michael briefly reached Category 5 status as it made landfall.

On record, only 39 hurricanes have achieved the Category 5 level. However, only four made landfall in the U.S.: Hurricane Michael (2018), Hurricane Andrew (1992), Hurricane Camille (1969) and the Labor Day Hurricane (1935).