Hurricane Karl
Category 6 hurricane (SSHS)
Hurricane Katrina August 28 2005 NASA

Hurricane Karl strengthening, as it approaches the Houston-Galveston region.
Formed July 24
Dissipated August 10
Accumulated Cyclone Energy 65.3
Highest winds 235 mph
(1-min sustained)
Lowest pressure 833 (mbar)
Damages $750 billion (2020 USD)
Direct Fatalities 92,000
Indirect Fatalities 2,000
Missing 2,000
Areas affected Windward Islands, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, [1]
Part of the
2028 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Hurricane Karl was notorious for being the most intense storm on record (and becoming one of the deadliest on record) before Hurricane Samuel, Typhoon Noelani, and Cylone (or Typhoon) Minnie formed. Harold was a Cape-Verde storm that made landfall on the Texas Coast with winds of 235 mph (380 km/h) and a pressure of 833 millibars (24.50 inHg), killing 84,000 in and around the Houston-Galveston region.

Meteorological History

Karl formed when a tropical wave passed over warm waters on July 22. The wave helped to produce a tropical depression on July 24, just off the Cape Verde Islands. Being a slow-moving storm, it quickly gained energy from the 88*F (31.5*C) waters, eventually reaching tropical storm status twelve hours later. It was given the name Karl. It reached winds of hurricane force on July 25.

Karl continued to intensify, and by July 26, it was a monstrous Category 3 hurricane, with a diameter of 600 miles and a wind speed of 115 mph (185 km/h). The storm system was also reported to be moving at a forward speed of 10 mph, continuing to grow even stronger. The storm stayed at Category 3 intensity for 4 more days, before it came across a massive area of water, estimated to have been 86*F (30*C). The storm quickly grew in intensity, and just 40 hours before making landfall on the Windward Islands, it was estimated to have been packing winds of up to 165 mph (270 km/h) and a pressure of 914 millibars (27.00 inHg). It hit the Windward Islands at full force on July 31, as a 175-mph hurricane, with a diameter of 450 miles (720 km).

After passing over the islands, the storm continued to intensify, eventually reaching wind speeds of 205 mph (330 km/h) and a pressure of 863 millibars by the time it hit Jamaica on August 3 as a 400-mile-wide (640-km-wide) storm.

Thereafter, the storm went through an eyewall replacement cycle, and it weakened from 205 mph to 145 mph (233 km/h), but it grew to a diameter of 600 miles. It hit the Cayman Islands with wind speeds of 160 mph (260 km/h) and a pressure of 914 millibars on August 4. It then increased back into a major storm, hitting Cozumel as a 200-mph (320 km/h) storm, with a pressure of 870 millibars and a diameter of 450 miles (720 km) just 13 hours later.

The storm then crossed into the Gulf of Mexico on August 4 as a low-end Category 5 hurricane, with a pressure of 915 millibars and winds of 160 mph (260 km/h). With ocean waters of 33*C (92*F), though, the storm intensified into a monstrous storm, with a diameter of 600 miles. It gained a 20-mile-wide eye, with a radius of maximum winds extending 25 miles from the eye. A Hurricane Hunter plane recorded wind speeds of up to 230 mph (370 km/h) and a pressure of 833 millibars (24.50 inHg), making Karl the world's strongest hurricane up until Hurricane Samuel, Typhoon Noelani, and Cyclone Minnie formed. The storm had hurricane-force winds extending 155 miles (250 km) east of the eye, with tropical gale-force winds extending 325 miles (520 km) east of the eye, while winds exceeding 100 mph extended 40 miles (64 km) from the eyewall. The same gales extended 275 miles (440 km) west of the eye, affecting Corpus Christi with 63 mph (102 km/h) winds and tides of seven feet (2.1 meters) above normal.

Karl increased in forward speed to 20 mph (32 km), slamming into Freeport and Galveston at peak strength at 7:15 AM on August 7, with wind speeds of 230 mph and an eye diameter of 30 miles (48 km). The storm continued inland at a phenomenal rate, even reaching as far as Dallas with winds of up to 110 mph (180 km/h). It finally dissipated over the Great Lakes on August 10.


Hurricane Karl left a path of destruction throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and especially in Texas.

Windward Islands

Hurricane Karl hit the island of Martinique with winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and a pressure of 900 millibars. The storm surge affected areas over 80 miles north of Martinique, including Dominica, which reported average gusts exceeding 120 mph and a 15-foot (4.5 meter) storm surge.

The storm moved over the islands at 15 mph, causing death and destruction everywhere. The total death toll was estimated to have been 1,000. Damages exceeded $5 billion.


After reaching winds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h), the storm slammed into Jamaica full force, killing hundreds all over the island. Particularly affected was Kingston, which reported gusts of 200 mph for over four hours. The city was devastated by a 23-foot (7-meter) wall of water, which moved inland at 15 mph (24 km/h), killing hundreds that were caught in its path, as the water flooded up to five kilometers inland in some areas.

In all, over 2,000 died, of which 1,600 perished in Kingston. Damages exceeded $12 billion in the country.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands were hit by the storm as it was beginning to intensify, with wind speeds of up to 160 mph (260 km/h). Harold produced a storm surge of up to 20 feet (6 meters), causing over 100 deaths and over $3 billion in damage.


Karl first hit Cozumel with wind speeds of up to 200 mph (320 km/h), producing a storm surge of 20 feet. The storm surge slammed into the island, killing hundreds trapped in the region. The storm system then moved north, affecting Cancun and several other cities in the Yucatan Peninsula, killing hundreds more. Overall, a total of 1,900 people died, while damages exceeded $30 billion in damages.

United States of America

The United States of America was particularly affected by Hurricane Karl, as the hurricane hit Texas as a large, intense "super hurricane", killing tens of thousands in and around the state of Texas.


The hurricane hit the state at the worst possible location, between Freeport and Galveston, putting the northeast quadrant of the storm on top of Galveston. The storm surge, pushed inland by the hurricane reached a height of 33 feet (10 meters) in Galveston, and as the storm moved inland at a speed of 20 mph (32 km/h), Karl exposed much of the Houston-Galveston Region to winds of 235 mph (380 km/h) and gusts of 285 mph (455 km/h). The storm system affected the area with hurricane-force winds for over 15 hours, leveling the region. As the storm system moved through while millions of people were caught in the storm, thousands were killed in their cars.

The winds alone were a major contributor to the death and destruction in the region. Exposure to winds in excess of 100 mph (160 km/h) for hours on end led to many structures collapsing, crushing their occupants. The winds were so strong that the Fred Hartman Bridge (the large suspension bridge that connects Baytown to La Porte) suffered major damage in the storm system.

Galveston, in particular, was completely devastated by the high wind and storm surge. Its low elevation and location near the coast meant that Harold struck the area at peak strength, putting a massive flood on top of the city. At its highest point, some areas were under 20 feet of water, while multiple condominiums collapsed in the water and high winds. Out of 15,000 trapped in the city, half perished in the city, while the mayor of the city estimated that 100% of the city was “wiped off the map.”

Radio recordings, eyewitness accounts, and footage showed that League City, Texas City, and the Bolivar Peninsula were in no better shape by the time Hurricane Karl moved inland, as the increased moisture content in the storm meant that the tropical cyclone didn't weaken at all while moving inland. Houston reported a similar problem, with sustained winds exceeding 225 mph (360 km/h). In Houston, over 800,000 homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by Harold. About 300,000 of them suffered damage from the high winds. The storm system shattered many glass windows in the city, and tornadic gusts literally twisted some skyscrapers to the point of irreversible damage, such as the JP Morgan Chase Tower, which was discovered to have had its “outer shell” ripped out.

The storm surge reached heights well over 70 feet (21 meters) in Houston and Baytown, flooding miles inland and killing thousands. Many more perished from floods as a result of the canals and bayous in and around the city overflowing. The Texas Medical Center was completely overwhelmed by the flood, while it suffered major wind damage.

All told, the storm left 84,000 dead in the region. Another 2,000 died in the Port Author region, which received winds of 90 mph (145 km/h) for hours on end, and a 15-foot storm surge, along with other areas as the storm system moved inland. Many of the deaths were in Dallas, when the hurricane moved on top of the city, causing massive death and destruction. Total damages reached over $650 billion in damages.


The hurricane produced hurricane-force winds and a major storm surge that flooded as far inland as Lake Charles, killing over 500 in the state. Over $30 billion in damage was done to the state. Officials state that sea level rise, which was a foot above normal sea level, exasperated the destruction.


Karl brought massive rainbands to Tennessee and Missouri, causing major floods and tornadoes that killed 500 in the Midwest, and causing $20 billion more in damage.


Hurricane Karl left a total of 92,000 dead in the Caribbean islands and America, and it caused a total of $650 billion in damage. The National Guard was overwhelmed in the state of Texas. Many areas were simply abandoned, including much of Lake Charles, LA, and Galveston, Texas.

For many of the areas, it will likely take decades for the areas to heal.

See Also