How Possible Is A Category 7 Storm?

November 6, 2005

(KUTV) The globe has seen a slew of natural disasters over the past year, from the tsunami in Thailand, to Hurricane Katrina, to Sunday’s deadly twister in Indiana.

Sunday night, CBS aired part one of a mini-series called "Category 7," about how a catastrophic hurricane wipes out civilization. But is it all Hollywood hoopla, or could it really happen?

The planet has suffered from hurricanes to tsunamis to earthquakes. Experts say we're not done yet. This year was a record hurricane season. Katrina was as high as a category five, and a Category 3 when it hit New Orleans. But how realistic is a Category 7?

It seems like every week Mother Nature devastates another community with high winds, flooding, and a loss of power. Locally, several parts of Utah were hit with severe flooding from Cache Valley to St. George during the last year.

“We're setting a record this year – 22 storms – the most ever recorded since we started keeping track of these things,” says Scott Kiser with the National Weather Service.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say there's plenty more to come.

“We are in a period of high activity for tropical cyclones. NOAA’s climatologists have identified that period having begun in 1995. Since then nine of the last hurricane seasons have been well above normal,” says Kiser. “I think we’re going to maintain this high period of activity for at least the next ten or possibly the next 20 years.”

Kiser says the recipe for a super-sized storm begins with ocean temperatures of 80 degrees or higher.

“When you have very warm ocean surface temperatures, no dry intrusion, and no wind shear, you have the potential for one of these Category 4 or Category 5 five storms,” he says.

But what about a Category 7 like the one featured in Sunday’s television movie? Officials say there's no such thing. The scale only goes up to 5, and even a storm that size is extremely rare.

“We need to really come back to reality. These Category 5’s with these wind speeds in the 160s, 175 miles per hour – only three of those have ever hit land over 135 years of history. I think we need to mix a little science, a little facts here to come back to come up with what is really plausible,” says Kiser.

For now, major destruction seen on movies like “Category 7” will only be created by Hollywood, not Mother Nature.

So, could a Category 7 hurricane happen? Only on television or the big screen.

Of course, Mother Nature can be deadly. Hurricane Katrina was a Category 3 storm when it hit land, practically destroying one of the biggest cities in the nation.

SOURCE: KUTV (Salt Lake City)