Historic 1969 hurricane loses highest-wind ranking

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Posted: Thursday, April 10, 2014 9:00 am | Updated: 11:02 pm, Thu Apr 10, 2014.

MIAMI, Fla. (WTXL) -- Modern-day reanalysis of information collected during the lifespan of Hurricane Camille, which devastated the central Gulf coast in 1969, caused adjustments in its peak wind intensity and lowest air pressure, which dethroned the storm as being the strongest hurricane in Atlantic basin recorded history.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration gathered observation and satellite data during Camille's lengthy trek through the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico in August 1969.  Using current analysis techniques and technology, it was determined that winds at landfall along the Mississippi coast on Aug. 17, 1969, were 175 mph, instead of the 190 mph peak speed originally recorded.

While Camille remains one of only three Category 5 hurricanes to hit the United States on record, the decrease in highest sustained wind speeds drops the storm to #2 on the all-time wind intensity list.  The landfalling storm with the highest winds is the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that struck the Florida Keys.  Hurricane Andrew in 1992 is the other Category 5 storm to reach the U.S. landscape.

Other changes to the data with Hurricane Camille include a lowering of minimum air pressure (900 millibars) and an earlier development into a tropical cyclone.

The review of Hurricane Camille is part of a broader effort to revisit the records of previous storms over the past several decades.  Current-day meteorological knowledge and standards are applied to refine the historical data, and changes to the information are made when necessary.

Other hurricanes that have undergone revisions in observation data include Andrew and Donna, which hit the Florida Keys and west coast in 1960.

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