Most notorious October hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean

While temperatures tumble in autumn across parts of the United States, water in the Atlantic Ocean often remains warm enough to support hurricanes.

"The two deadliest hurricanes in the Atlantic basin’s history were in October," AccuWeather Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

The Great Hurricane of 1780 was the deadliest hurricane, killing almost 20,000 people in the Caribbean, in the same areas that were blasted by Irma and Maria.


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"The other was Mitch in 1998. It stalled over Central America and killed nearly 20,000," Samuhel said.

In October and November, water in parts of the Atlantic tends to be at the warmest levels of the year, since ocean cooling lags behind cooling of the air.

The ocean heat content or what meteorologists call "available energy" for hurricanes can be quite high in the western Caribbean during October.

When the warm ocean water evaporates, it heats the surrounding air, which fuels the growth and intensity of a hurricane.

"For hurricanes, the water is extremely warm there [in the western Caribbean] this time of year, and it’s warm very deep down," Samuhel said.

Here are some of the most notorious hurricanes that have struck in October.

RELATED: Deadliest hurricanes in US history

Deadliest hurricanes in US history
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Deadliest hurricanes in US history

Galveston Hurricane, 1900

The Category 4 storm, which made landfall in Galveston, Texas, ranks as the deadliest weather disaster in U.S. history. It killed at least 8,000 people, according to the National Weather Service. The storm also flattened thousands of buildings in the coastal city of Galveston, leaving many people homeless. The city was flooded by a storm surge more than 15 feet (4.6 meters) tall.

In this photo: Men use ropes to pull away the debris of houses in order to look for bodies after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900.

Photo by Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Okeechobee Hurricane, 1928

The Category 4 storm made landfall in Palm Beach County, Florida. An estimated 2,500 people died, but the figure could be as high as 3,000, according to the National Weather Service. The south shore of Lake Okeechobee was hit by severe flooding as a surge of water topped dikes in the area.

Photo by Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images

Hurricane Katrina, 2005

The hurricane made a direct hit on New Orleans as a Category 3 storm, causing levees and flood walls to fail in dozens of places. Most of New Orleans was flooded, and some people who were stranded in their homes climbed to the roofs to await rescue. About 1,200 people died, according to the National Weather Service. Most victims were in Louisiana, but neighbouring Mississippi also was hard hit. Katrina caused an estimated $108 billion in damage, making it the costliest hurricane ever to strike the United States.

In this photo: Christian Schloegel stands amidst the rubble of his grandmothers home destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in Gulfport, Mississippi, on August 30, 2005.

Photo by Oscar Sosa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Great New England Hurricane, 1938

The Category 3 storm made landfall in Long Island and Connecticut. It caused about 600 deaths, including off-shore fatalities, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of Massachusetts experienced wind gusts up to 186 miles per hour (299 km/h).

In this photo: Men search for bodies in the wreckage caused by the Great New England Hurricane.

Photo by Seelig/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Hurricane Audrey, 1957

The Category 4 hurricane struck near the Texas-Louisiana border, unleashing storm surges that reached up to 25 miles (40 km) inland in the low-lying areas, according to the National Weather Service. It killed more than 400 people.

In this photo: Wreckage shows the aftermath of Hurricane Audrey, Louisiana.

Photo by Shel Hershorn/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Florida Keys Labor Day Hurricane, 1935

The storm ripped through the Florida Keys as a Category 5 storm. It then moved north just off the western coast of Florida before turning inland and making landfall as a Category 2. More than 400 people died.

In this photo: Rescue workers search for more victims of a 100-mile-an-hour hurricane.


Hurricane Matthew 2016

Highest winds: 165 mph

Total fatalities: 603

Formed: Sept. 28, 2016

Dissipated: Oct. 10, 2016

Matthew brought devastating flooding, strong winds and moderate storm surge to the coast of eastern North Carolina on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9.

The maximum storm surge measured by a tide gauge in the United States was 7.70 feet above normal tide levels in Fort Pulaski, Georgia. Matthew also produced storm surges of 6.96 feet at Fernandina Beach, Florida, 6.20 feet at Charleston, South Carolina, and 6.06 feet at Hatteras, North Carolina.

Hurricane Matthew caused damage from Florida through the Carolinas with wind damage and flooding.

Matthew was a powerful and devastating tropical cyclone, which became the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic since Felix in 2007. The storm caused a total of 15.1 billion in U.S. dollars of damage.


Superstorm Sandy 2012

Highest winds: 115 mph

Total fatalities: 233

Formed: Oct. 22, 2012

Dissipated: Nov. 2, 2012

Even though Sandy was not a hurricane when it hit, Sandy is a prime example of a monster October storm that can cause devastation. 

In the United States, Superstorm Sandy affected 24 states, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. Its storm surge hit New York City on Oct. 29, flooding streets, tunnels and subway lines and cutting power in and around the city. The damage in the U.S. amounted to $71.4 billion.


Hurricane Wilma in 2005

Highest winds: 183 mph

Total fatalities: 62

Formed: Oct. 16, 2005

Dissipated: Oct. 27, 2005

"Wilma is famous for being the strongest hurricane ever in the Atlantic basin. It had the lowest barometric pressure reading of any hurricane in the history of the basin," Samuhel said.

Wilma eventually made landfall in Florida as a Category 3 hurricane.

"Wilma reached its peak intensity over the western Caribbean, which is no surprise, as that area has the most available energy," Samuhel said.

Wilma tossed hundreds of railroad cars from their tracks and left more than 6 million Floridians without electricity.

Wilma is among the top-five costliest Atlantic hurricanes as it caused US$29.4 billion in damage.

"It is also the costliest hurricane in Mexican history. It basically stalled over Cancun and Cozumel as a Category 4 hurricane," Samuhel said.


Hurricane Mitch 1998

Highest winds: 180 mph

Total fatalities: 19,325

Formed: Oct. 22, 2005

Dissipated: Nov. 9, 2005

Mitch caused a storm surge of up to 4 feet in the lower Florida Keys before making landfall on the Florida west coast.

According to the National Hurricane Center, tornadoes from the storm damaged or destroyed 645 houses across the state of Florida, in addition to injuring 65 people.

Due to its slow motion, the hurricane dropped historic amounts of rainfall in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua.

"It stalled over Central America and killed nearly 20,000," Samuhel said. Mitch is the second deadliest Atlantic hurricane on record.

As a result of the hurricane, roughly 2.7 million people were left homeless. Mitch's flooding caused extreme damage, estimated at over US$6 billion.


Hurricane Opal in 1995

Highest winds: 150 mph

Total fatalities: 63

Formed: Sept. 27, 2005

Dissipated: Oct. 6, 2005

This hurricane hit the western Florida Panhandle near Pensacola as a Category 3 hurricane with 115-mph winds.

Opal rapidly weakened after moving inland and was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved across southern Alabama. 

There were nine fatalities reported in the mainland United States, including one local fatality in Crestview, Florida, due to an EF2 tornado. Hurricane Opal's damage amounted to US$5.1 billion.


Hurricane Hazel 1954

Highest winds: 140 mph

Total fatalities: Death toll estimated to be between 400 and 1,000

Formed: Oct. 5, 2012

Dissipated: Oct. 18, 2012

Landfall occurred on the North Carolina/South Carolina border on Oct. 15. The coastal area near the landfall was battered by winds estimated to have been as high 150 mph. The storm caused a total of US$382 million in damage.

"Hurricane Hazel in 1954, it is the only hurricane to hit North Carolina as a Category 4 storm. It was moving quickly and caused devastating winds from the Carolinas to Canada. Winds gusted over 90 mph in Washington D.C.," Samuhel said.

A gust to 113 mph was reported at the Battery, a park in New York City, but the storm didn't stop there.

"Hazel produced the worst flooding in the history of Toronto," Samuhel said.

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