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6 of the most notorious October hurricanes in the Atlantic

While temperatures tumble in autumn across parts of the United States, water in the Atlantic Ocean often remains warm enough to support hurricanes.

"The two deadliest hurricanes in the Atlantic basin’s history were in October," AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

The Great Hurricane of 1780 was the deadliest hurricane, killing almost 20,000 people in the Caribbean, in the same areas that were blasted by Irma and Maria.

"The other was Mitch in 1998. It stalled over Central America and killed nearly 20,000," Samuhel said.

In October and November, water in parts of the Atlantic tends to be at the warmest levels of the year, since ocean cooling lags behind cooling of the air.

The ocean heat content or what meteorologists call "available energy" for hurricanes can be quite high in the western Caribbean during October.

When the warm ocean water evaporates, it heats the surrounding air, which fuels the growth and intensity of a hurricane.



"For hurricanes, the water is extremely warm there [in the western Caribbean] this time of year, and it’s warm very deep down," Samuhel said.

Here are some of the most notorious hurricanes that have struck in October.

Hurricane Matthew 2016

Highest winds: 165 mph
Total fatalities: 603
Formed: Sept. 28, 2016
Dissipated: Oct. 10, 2016

Matthew brought devastating flooding, strong winds and moderate storm surge to the coast of eastern North Carolina on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9.

The maximum storm surge measured by a tide gauge in the United States was 7.70 feet above normal tide levels in Fort Pulaski, Georgia. Matthew also produced storm surges of 6.96 feet at Fernandina Beach, Florida, 6.20 feet at Charleston, South Carolina, and 6.06 feet at Hatteras, North Carolina.

Chris Hinds

Chris Hinds walks between boats pushed up amongst the twisted docks at Palmetto Bay Marina damaged by Hurricane Matthew in Hilton Head, S.C., Sunday, Oct. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Hurricane Matthew caused damage from Florida through the Carolinas with wind damage and flooding.

Matthew was a powerful and devastating tropical cyclone, which became the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Felix in 2007. The storm caused a total of 15.1 billion in U.S. dollars of damage.

Superstorm Sandy 2012

Highest winds: 115 mph
Total fatalities: 233
Formed: Oct. 22, 2012
Dissipated: Nov. 2, 2012

Even though Sandy was not a hurricane when it hit, Sandy is prime example of a monster October storm that can cause devastation.

Sandy (Getty)

Home in Ortley Beach, New Jersey, caused by Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall near Brigantine, New Jersey, on October 30, 2012. (skrum/Getty Images)

In the United States, Superstom Sandy affected 24 states, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its storm surge hit New York City on Oct. 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city. The damage in the U.S. amounted to US$71.4 billion.

Hurricane Wilma in 2005

Highest winds: 183 mph
Total fatalities: 62
Formed: Oct. 16, 2005
Dissipated: Oct. 27, 2005

"Wilma is famous for being the strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic basin. It had the lowest barometric pressure reading of any hurricane in the history of the basin," Samuhel said.

Wilma eventually made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane.


Small planes are seen damaged under hangars at Boca Raton Airport Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2005. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

"Wilma reached its peak intensity over the western Caribbean, which is no surprise, as that area has the most available energy," Samuhel said.

Wilma tossed hundreds of railroad cars from their tracks and left more than 6 million Floridians without electricity.

Wilma is among the top-five costliest Atlantic hurricanes as it caused US$29.4 billion in damage.

"It is also the costliest hurricane in Mexican history. It basically stalled over Cancun and Cozumel as a Category 4 hurricane," Samuhel said.

Hurricane Mitch 1998

Highest winds: 180 mph
Total fatalities: 19,325
Formed: Oct. 22, 2005
Dissipated: Nov. 9, 2005

Mitch caused a storm surge of up to 4 feet in the lower Florida Keys before making landfall on the Florida west coast.

According to the National Hurricane Center, tornadoes from the storm damaged or destroyed 645 houses across the state of Florida, in addition to injuring 65 people.

Due to its slow motion, the hurricane dropped historic amounts of rainfall in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

"It stalled over Central America and killed nearly 20,000," Samuhel said. Mitch is the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record.


Residents of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, sort through debris Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1998, on a downtown city street. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

As a result of the hurricane, roughly 2.7 million people were left homeless. Mitch's flooding caused extreme damage, estimated at over US$6 billion.

Hurricane Opal in 1995

Highest winds: 150 mph
Total fatalities: 63
Formed: Sept. 27, 2005
Dissipated: Oct. 6, 2005

This hurricane hit the western Florida Panhandle near Pensacola as a Category 3 hurricane with 115-mph winds.

Opal rapidly weakened after moving inland and was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved across southern Alabama.


Angela Veal looks over the damage left by Hurricane Opal on the shore of Choctawhatchee Bay Thursday, Oct. 5, 1995. (AP Photo/Hans Deryk)

There were nine fatalities reported in the mainland United States, including one local fatality in Crestview, Florida, due to an EF2 tornado. Hurricane Opal's damage amounted to US$5.1 billion.

Hurricane Hazel 1954

Highest winds: 140 mph
Total fatalities: Death toll estimated to be between 400 and 1,000
Formed: Oct. 5, 2012
Dissipated: Oct. 18, 2012

Landfall occurred on the North Carolina/South Carolina border on Oct. 15. The coastal area near the landfall was battered by winds estimated to have been as high 150 mph. The storm caused a total of US$382 million in damage.

Hurricane Hazel 1954

High tides, whipped in by Hurricane Hazel, shatter boats and buildings in Swansboro, North Carolina, Oct. 15, 1954 as the storm lashes the Atlantic seaboard. The full brunt of the storm was left to the south but heavy seas and high water caused widespread damage along its fringes. (AP Photo)

"Hurricane Hazel in 1954, it is the only hurricane to hit North Carolina as a Category 4 storm. It was moving quickly, and caused devastating winds from the Carolinas to Canada. Winds gusted over 90 mph in Washington D.C.," Samuhel said.

A gust to 113 mph was reported at the Battery, a park in New York City, but the storm didn't stop there.

"Hazel produced the worst flooding in the history of Toronto," Samuhel said.