|Category 5 hurricane (SSHWS)|
|Duration||September 8 – September 19|
|Peak intensity||185 mph (295 km/h) (1-min) 888 mbar (hPa)|
The 12th tropical depression formed just east of the Lesser Antilles on September 8. As it moved west-northwest, it became Tropical Storm Gilbert over the islands on September 9. The tropical storm turned west and rapidly intensified to a major hurricane on September 11. Gilbert continued to strengthen as it brushed the southern coast of Hispaniola. It passed directly over Jamaica as a Category 3 hurricane and brought torrential rains to the island’s mountainous areas. When the center reemerged over water, Gilbert rapidly intensified again. On September 13 the central pressure dropped 72 millibars (2.1 inHg), the fastest deepening of an Atlantic hurricane on record until 2005‘s Hurricane Wilma. Gilbert’s pressure of 888 millibars (26.2 inHg) at the time was the lowest sea level pressure ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Gilbert weakened slightly before landfall on the Yucatán Peninsula, although it struck at Category 5 strength. As the eye moved over land, the storm rapidly lost strength, reemerging on September 15 in the Gulf of Mexico as a Category 2 hurricane. Hurricane Gilbert continued its northwest track and restrengthened to a minimal Category 4 hurricane. On September 16, Gilbert made its final landfall in northeast Mexico near the town of La Pesca with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph (201 km/h). The center passed south of Monterrey, Mexico, on September 17 and brought heavy flooding to the city. Gilbert’s remnants turned north and eventually merged with a developing frontal low pressure system over Missouri.
Hurricane Gilbert was the most intense hurricane ever observed in the Atlantic basin until Hurricane Wilma broke this record in 2005. The storm caused $5 billion (1988 USD) in damage across the Caribbean and into Central America. Gilbert was the first hurricane to make landfall in Jamaica since Hurricane Charlie in 1951. Until 2007’s Hurricane Dean, it was also the most recent storm to make landfall as a Category 5 hurricane in Mexico. The death toll from Gilbert was reported to be 318 people, mostly from Mexico.