Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hurricane Gilbert remains one of the deadliest, costliest, and most intense hurricanes on record. It wreaked havoc in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico for nearly 9 days during the 1988 Atlantic hurricane season.
Gilbert was born September 8, 1988 as the 12th tropical depression of the season near the Windward Islands. While feeding off the warm waters (27°C) of the Caribbean, Gilbert quickly strengthened to tropical storm status on September 9 and became the seventh named storm of the season. It strengthened even more and became a major hurricane on September 10, which is also the climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Its west-northwesterly movement brought Gilbert to first make landfall in Jamaica. The eyewall crossed completely over Jamaica on September 12 with 240 km/h winds, putting it at category four on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale. It was the first hurricane to make direct landfall in Jamaica since 1951.
Gilbert moved off the coast of Jamaica only to strengthen rapidly. The hurricane reached the lower edge of category five while slamming into Grand Cayman. Gilbert's extreme intensification continued until it reached its peak winds of 295 km/h (185 mph). That ranks as the third highest winds in a hurricane on record; only Camille and the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 had higher winds measured. Gilbert also reached a minimum pressure of 888 millibars, the lowest pressure on record in the western hemisphere.
Gilbert made landfall for a second time in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a category five hurricane, making it the first category five hurricane to make landfall since Camille 19 years earlier in 1969. Major hurricane status was held as the storm made landfall for a third time near La Pesca , Tamaulipas, Mexico. Gilbert spawned 29 tornadoes in Texas on September 18 and caused flooding in the midwest. Gilbert lost its strength when it merged with a frontal boundary in Texas on September 19.
Gilbert claimed 318 lives: 202 in Mexico, 45 in Jamaica, 30 in Haiti, 12 in Guatemala, 5 in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, 3 in the United States, and 2 in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Exact monetary damage figures are not available, but the total for all areas affected by Gilbert is estimated to be near 5 billion USD (1988 dollars).
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