Hurricane Allen

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Hurricane Allen
Hurricane Allen at landfall on August 9, 1980

Hurricane Allen at landfall on August 9, 1980
Duration July 31 - Aug. 11, 1980
Highest winds 190 mph (305 km/h) sustained
Damages $2.6 billion (2005 USD)
Fatalities 250 - 260 direct
Areas affected Windward Islands, Haiti, Jamaica, Yucatan Peninsula, northern Mexico, southern Texas
Part of the 1980 Atlantic hurricane season

Hurricane Allen was the first hurricane given a male name and the strongest hurricane of the 1980 Atlantic hurricane season. It was one of the strongest hurricanes in recorded history, one of the few hurricanes to reach Category 5 status on three separate occasions, and spent more time as a Category 5 than any other Atlantic hurricane.

Allen caused $2.6 billion (2005 USD) in damages and killed at least 250 people throughout its course.


Storm history

Storm path
Storm path

Allen originated as a Cape Verde-type hurricane, a rarity for tropical systems in early August. As it moved towards the Caribbean it became the first named storm of the season. Allen sped westward, rapidly intensifying into a Category 5 hurricane and (very unusually) remaining so for over a day. The eye passed just south of Hispaniola and just north Jamaica as a Category 4 hurricane.

After weakening from interactions with the mountains of Haiti and Jamaica, Allen reintensified to a Category 5 for a second time, again retaining this intensity for over a day. It moved between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula. Interestingly, during Allen's trek through the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, its center of circulation never crossed over land despite its close passage to the islands of the Caribbean.

Allen again weakened to a Category 4 storm through interactions with land, but it restrengthened into a Category 5 hurricane for a third time as it moved over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, again keeping this intensity for nearly a full day. Shortly before landfall, dry air aloft in the Gulf caused the massive storm to weaken substantially. Allen made landfall north of Brownsville, Texas as a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of only 115 mph.


Allen caused extensive damage in both Hispaniola and Jamaica. Hurricane-force winds were reported in both Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula, along with gale-force winds in the Florida Keys.

In Texas, the storm surge was reported as high as 12 feet at Port Mansfield, though it may have been higher because the highest surges occurred in unpopulated and unmonitored sections of the Texas coast. A peak wind gust of 129 mph was also measured at Port Mansfield. The storm caused seven 7 in Texas and 17 in Louisiana (most resulting from the crash of a helicopter evacuating workers from an offshore platform). Allen spawned several tornadoes in Texas. One tornado caused $100 million in damage when it hit Austin, Texas, making it the costliest tropical cyclone-spawned tornado ever. Overall, however, the storm caused limited damage in the United States due to its suddenly diminished power and because its highest tides and winds hit a sparsely-populated portion of the Texas coast.

One bit of good news resulted from Allen's arrival -- it dumped 10 to 20 inches of rain in south Texas, ending a summer-long drought during the Heat Wave of 1980.

The name Allen was retired from the Atlantic tropic storms list in the spring of 1981 and replaced with Andrew in 1986.


Ten most intense Atlantic hurricanes

Intensity is measured solely by central pressure

Rank Hurricane Year Minimum pressure
1 Wilma 2005 882 mbar (hPa)
2 Gilbert 1988 888 mbar (hPa)
3 Labor Day 1935 892 mbar (hPa)
4 Rita 2005 897 mbar (hPa)
5 Allen 1980 899 mbar (hPa)
6 Katrina 2005 902 mbar (hPa)
7 Camille 1969 905 mbar (hPa)
8 Mitch 1998 905 mbar (hPa)
9 Ivan 2004 910 mbar (hPa)
10 Janet 1955 914 mbar (hPa)
Source: The Weather Channel

Allen is one of the few Atlantic hurricanes to reach Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale on three separate occasions, the others being Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Isabel.

Allen also produced the fifth-lowest minimum pressure ever recorded in the Atlantic basin at 899 mbar (hPa).

Allen spent nearly 3 days as a Category 5 storm, by far the highest of any Atlantic hurricane.

See also

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