Hurricane Gilbert Facts: Details Of One Of The Scariest Storms

Christian Mba
Nov 03, 2023 By Christian Mba
Originally Published on Apr 12, 2022
Hurricane Gilbert Facts: Details Of One Of The Scariest Storms

Hurricane Gilbert is the second-most intense tropical cyclone to hit the planet. 

The most destructive storm in the history of Jamaica, Hurricane Gilbert, was recorded in the 1988 Atlantic Hurricane season and lasted for about nine days. It caused intensive damage to the Caribbean islands, Mexico and Texas.

One of the strongest hurricanes of all time, Gilbert claimed 318 lives and caused damage of $2.98 billion. Tropical wind formations measured 575 mi (925 km) in diameter and brought wind speeds of 185 mph (295 kph).

Hurricane Gilbert became a category five hurricane and was the largest cyclone ever seen in the Atlantic basin. This hurricane resulted in flood havoc that claimed many lives and wildfires.

Weather Broadcast

Satellite images detected a tropical wave on September 3, 1988, off the coast of Africa. On September 9, reconnaissance aircraft checked into the depression, and it was declared a tropical storm.

On September 12, it was declared a category three hurricane carrying winds of 125 mph (201 kph) with consistent gusts of over 150 mph (241 kph). The peak wind speed of this hurricane was measured at 185 mph (298 kph). After this, the storm rapidly intensified.

On September 14, it made a second landfall and was declared a category five storm. Mexico felt the full force of the hurricane around daybreak.

Roofs were ripped off buildings, dockyards were destroyed, trees uprooted, power lines were severed, and telephone towers fell over. The hurricane then moved up the peninsula to Northern Mexico at a speed of around 15 mi per hour (24 kph). It was headed towards New York but became an extratropical cyclone over Lake Michigan on September 19.

Storm Impact

Hurricane Gilbert produced tides as high as 8.9 ft (2.7 m) off the coast of Jamaica. 6 in (700 mm) rainfall fell between September 10 and 14 and brought heavy downpours as far as Venezuela and Costa Rica. Wind speeds recorded in Kingston topped 75 mph (120 kph) and were accompanied by 125 mph (200 kph) gusts.

The severe storm damaged hospitals and farms once it made landfall in Jamaica and destroyed water supplies on the island. Heavy rain fell and wiped out the entire poultry and banana industry in Jamaica. Storms destroyed around 1,00,000 homes on the island of Jamaica.

At sea, 20 ft (6 m) storm surges sunk 83 ships and in Mexico, it destroyed 60,000 houses. On September 14, 1988, the hurricane made another landing on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and by then it was a category five storm.

Hurricane Gilbert Storm clouds.

Recovery Efforts

Relief materials reached Kingston in the aftermath of the hurricane and Jamaica suffered 4 billion dollars worth of estimated damages. Volunteers from several countries worked together to restore electricity, houses, roads, and other infrastructure. Relief workers brought in large white-and-blue tents and thousands of residents huddled in schools and churches.

Almost all the health facilities on the island were damaged beyond repair. Relief agencies like the Red Cross catered to around 8,00,000 residents who were rendered homeless. Many nations came together and pledged assistance worth $515 million for the devastated island nation. The Jamaican government managed the emergency by providing short-term jobs to local residents.

Affected Areas

Hurricane Gilbert caused severe damage by defoliating jungles on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Sustained winds uprooted trees of small diameter and the density of the forest declined byup to 33%. In its aftermath, wildfires fueled by debris destroyed around 460 sq. mi. (740 sq. km.) in Mexico.

For nine days Gilbert wreaked devastation in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Extreme torrential rains in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic triggered massive landslides and flash floods that left thousands homeless. There were worries that it would hit Texas but when it made landfall, wind speeds were a manageable 60 mi. (100 km).


What level was Hurricane Gilbert?

At its peak on September 13, Hurricane Gilbert was a category five major hurricane with sustained winds of 185 mph (295 kph). 

How strong was Hurricane Gilbert when hit Jamaica?

On September 12, Hurricane Gilbert devastated Jamaica with winds reaching 175 mph (280 km/h).

Was Hurricane Gilbert a category five?

Yes, Hurricane Gilbert was a category five intense tropical cyclone.

Where did Hurricane Gilbert make landfall?

Around 10 am on September 12, Hurricane Gilbert made its first landfall near the eastern coast of Jamaica.

When did Hurricane Gilbert hit Jamaica?

Hurricane Gilbert struck Jamaica on Monday, September 12, 1988.

Did Hurricane Gilbert hit the U.S?

On September 18, Hurricane Gilbert generated 29 tornadoes in Texas and then moved to Oklahoma.

What's the worst storm in history?

The Boha Cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1970 claimed the lives of 5,00,000 and is considered the worst storm in history.

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Written by Christian Mba

Bachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba picture

Christian MbaBachelor of Science specializing in Computer Science

Christian Mba is an experienced blogger and content writer with over a decade of experience. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Nigeria and has a keen interest in Python programming. Along with his writing and blogging expertise, he is also an SEO specialist with more than six years of experience. Chris, as he is commonly known, has a passion for music and enjoys playing the piano.

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