With the advancement in technology, there has been a notion that now humans can control everything. However, then mother nature gives them a wake-up call in her own ways, and believe me, her ways can be deadly. We play with our environment forgetting that it has a limit to what it can take. When nature pays back, devastation happens in the form of earthquakes, hurricanes, heat strokes, and even pandemics. Extreme weather events have tormented humanity throughout history, but few occurrences provoke as much terror and fear as the fury of a hurricane. These havoc-wreaking storms have left a permanent imprint on the places they have devastated, changing the course of history in their aftermath. By rating ten of the deadliest storms in U.S. history in terms of wind speed, damage, cost, and mortality, we may gain a better understanding of nature’s inherent strength and human resilience.

History’s Top 10 Deadliest Hurricanes that Wreak Havoc on United States

Here are the top ten horrifying hurricanes that happened in the history of America dating back to the 19th century. The list has been curated according to the number of fatalities. However, we have mentioned the other aspect too, which will help you understand it better.

RankNameYearHighest Winds (mph)FatalitiesEstimated Damages (2023 USD)
1Great Galveston Hurricane19001456,000-8,000$1.2 billion
2Okeechobee Hurricane19281604,112+$1.3 billion
3Hurricane Katrina20051751,392$134 billion
4Chenière Caminada Hurricane18931302,000+$148 million
5Sea Islands Hurricane18931201,000-2,000$30 million
6Georgia/South Carolina Hurricane1881105700+N/A
7Hurricane Audrey1957125431$1.5 billion
8Great Labor Day Hurricane1935185423$133 million
9Last Island Hurricane1856150300+N/A
10Great Miami Hurricane1926150539+$235 billion

1. Great Galveston Hurricane – 1900

The Great Galveston storm of 1900 was the most catastrophic storm to strike the United States coastline. The storm, often known as the “1900 Storm,” made landfall on September 8, 1900, near Galveston, Texas. The enormous hurricane intensified to a Category 4 storm, unleashing destructive winds of more than 145 mph. As with many hurricanes from this era, the Galveston residents had little notice of the impending disasters. They were directly in the line of the storm and had no idea it was coming until the evening before. Large-scale evacuations were no longer possible by that point. Hurricane Galveston hit the island city with 15-foot waves. It destroyed over 3,600 homes and caused $1.2 billion in damages (adjusted for inflation), with an estimated 8,000 lives lost.

DetailInformation
NameGreat Galveston Hurricane
Year1900
Highest Winds145 mph
Fatalities6,000-8,000
Estimated Damages$1.2 billion
ImpactDevastated Galveston, Texas with storm surge and winds. Widespread destruction and flooding.

2. Okeechobee Hurricane – 1928

The Okeechobee Hurricane (also San Felipe Segundo Hurricane) was an intense storm that hit Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and most of the Eastern United States in September 1928. Following the making landfall in Puerto Rico, the storm shifted northward toward Florida, intensifying to a Category 4. Okeechobee arrived at West Palm Beach early on September 17th. Okeechobee, driven by gusts of up to 160 mph, wreaked havoc on the region, causing severe rains and widespread flooding. The storm is Puerto Rico’s worst hurricane on record. Only the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 has had a greater impact on the continental United States. Hurricane Okeechobee in 1928 caused catastrophic flooding in Florida, with over 2,500 lives lost and $342 million in damages. The storm weakened and traveled up the eastern seaboard, causing 4,112 total deaths and $1.3 billion in damages.

DetailInformation
NameOkeechobee Hurricane
Year1928
Highest Winds160 mph
Fatalities4,112+
Estimated Damages$1.3 billion
ImpactCaused catastrophic flooding in Florida, impacting Puerto Rico and the Eastern US. Devastated West Palm Beach and caused widespread damage.

3. Hurricane Katrina – 2005

Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005. The storm started in Florida and slowly moved across the state before strengthening in the Gulf of Mexico’s warmer air and water. Before approaching Louisiana, the hurricane grew stronger to Category 5 strength, with winds reaching 175 mph. Although the hurricane had dropped to a Category 3 by the time it struck New Orleans, it nevertheless caused a 16-foot storm surge that devastated the area’s levees. After devastating Louisiana, Katrina moved northeast, wreaking havoc on many Gulf Coast communities in Mississippi and Alabama. New Orleans’ shattered barriers caused severe flooding in the region and were a major subject of conflict after the storm passed. 

Inadequate maintenance and misappropriation of funds led to the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina. This resulted in the deaths of over 1,392 people and caused estimated damages of $134 billion. The tragedy left thousands homeless, with recovery efforts continuing in New Orleans years after the storm.

DetailInformation
NameHurricane Katrina
Year2005
Highest Winds175 mph
Fatalities1,392
Estimated Damages$134 billion
ImpactDevastated Gulf Coast with storm surge and flooding. Levees failed in New Orleans, causing major destruction.

4. Chenière Caminada Hurricane – 1893

The Chenière Caminada Hurricane of 1893 was a powerful hurricane system that impacted most of the Gulf Coast. Located in what is now Jefferson Parrish, the small island of Chenière Caminada was ravaged by 130+ mph winds and a 16-foot high storm surge on October 2, 1893.

This deadly storm made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane, affecting over 500 miles of coastline. The hurricane’s massive storm surge wrecked local crops, resulting in a 60% loss in oranges, rice, and sugar for the year. In the aftermath of this hurricane, the small town of Chenière Caminada in Louisiana was left devastated with 779 deaths and only 4 standing homes. The storm also caused widespread destruction in other Gulf Coast states, resulting in over 2,000 deaths and $148 million in damages.

DetailInformation
NameChenière Caminada Hurricane
Year1893
Highest Winds130+ mph
Fatalities2,000+
Estimated Damages$148 million
ImpactDestroyed Chenière Caminada, Louisiana with storm surge and winds. Affected over 500 miles of coastline.

5. Sea Islands Hurricane – 1893

The Sea Islands Hurricane was the 2nd of three deadly storms to strike America’s shoreline during the 1893 season. The hurricane made landfall near Savannah, Georgia (on August 27th), with winds exceeding 120 mph and a storm surge of up to 18 feet.

The Sea Islands Hurricane, a Category 3 hurricane, caused widespread devastation in Georgia and South Carolina before continuing north along the coast. The storm caused damage to areas as far away as Maine before weakening and shifting back out to sea. In 1893, a severe storm caused extensive flooding on the Sea Islands near the Georgia-South Carolina border, killing an estimated 2,000 people and causing over $1 million in property damages (equivalent to $30 million today).

DetailInformation
NameSea Islands Hurricane
Year1893
Highest Winds120 mph
Fatalities1,000-2,000
Estimated Damages$30 million
ImpactCaused extensive flooding on Sea Islands near the Georgia-South Carolina border. Devastated coastal areas and caused damage as far as Maine.

6. Georgia/South Carolina Hurricane – 1881

The Georgia/South Carolina Hurricane of 1881 was a strong hurricane that hit Tybee Island on August 27, 1881. Although this hurricane was classed as a modest Category 2 storm, it is now the sixth worst hurricane in American history.

On August 27th, a Saturday, many people boarded boats from Savannah to Tybee Island for a day on the beaches. By midday, however, the sea had grown too turbulent for the ferries to keep going. Because there was no way to the mainland, many people were left trapped on the island when the hurricane hit. Hurricane winds tore off roofs and chimneys on Tybee Island, coinciding with high tide for a devastating storm surge. More than 700 people died, with Savannah suffering the most at 335 fatalities, with damages in the millions.

DetailInformation
NameGeorgia/South Carolina Hurricane
Year1881
Highest Winds105 mph
Fatalities700+
Estimated DamagesN/A
ImpactDevastated Tybee Island with winds and storm surge. Trapped many at the beach due to sudden arrival. Caused major damage in Savannah and nearby areas.

7. Hurricane Audrey – 1957

Hurricane Audrey refers to a large hurricane system that hit the Gulf Coast in mid-1957. Audrey, a Category 3 hurricane, destroyed coastal areas with fierce winds and heavy rains. Although Hurricane Audrey made her sole landfall on the Texas-Louisiana line, her impact was widespread. The hurricane first disrupted drilling at sea before sweeping into coastal cities in Texas and Louisiana with gusts of 125 mph or higher and a 12-foot storm surge. Because of the region’s low-lying geography, the storm surge extended up to 20 miles inland, causing major flooding. The hurricane also produced two tornadoes, which caused more inland devastation. Hurricane Audrey caused $1.5 billion in damages (equivalent to $147 million in 1957). Along with these damages, it killed at least 431 people, leaving 50,000 homeless, in 1957.

DetailInformation
NameHurricane Audrey
Year1957
Highest Winds125 mph
Fatalities431
Estimated Damages$1.5 billion
ImpactDestroyed coastal areas in Texas and Louisiana with winds, storm surge, and flooding. Produced tornadoes that caused inland damage.

8. Great Labor Day Hurricane – 1935

The 1935 Great Labor Day hurricane was the first of the only four Category 5 hurricanes to hit the United States (during the last two centuries). The Labor Day Hurricane hit the Florida Keys in August of that year, bringing 185+ mph winds and a roughly 20-foot storm surge. This vicious storm destroyed practically every structure in its path, with Marathon and Tavernier suffering the most damage. Similarly, the town of Islamorada was almost completely destroyed before the hurricane moved north, causing considerable damage in Georgia and South Carolina. The hurricane caused 423 deaths, $6 million in damages (equivalent to $133 million adjusted for inflation), and widespread destruction, including flooding, shipwrecks, and displacement of thousands.

DetailInformation
NameGreat Labor Day Hurricane
Year1935
Highest Winds185+ mph
Fatalities423
Estimated Damages$133 million
ImpactFirst Category 5 hurricane to hit the US. Destroyed Florida Keys with winds and storm surge. Caused damage in Georgia and South Carolina.

9. Last Island Hurricane – 1856

The Last Island Hurricane was a major hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast in 1856. When the storm reached the United States, it passed across Isle Dernière, Louisiana, then made landfall at New Iberia. It then wrecked houses, businesses, and even a hotel that was full of holidaymakers. Beachgoers and locals were taken aback by its sudden approach, which was unexpected. Winds reached 150 mph, with a storm wave of approximately 12 feet. In the aftermath of the storm, over 300 people died, including 198 vacationers on Last Island who were stranded without evacuation due to the ship, Star, being pushed onto the beach. The full cost of the storm’s damages is difficult to put into words due to the time frame. However, they are thought to have been unusual, considering the huge destruction.

DetailInformation
NameLast Island Hurricane
Year1856
Highest Winds150 mph
Fatalities300+
ImpactDevastated Last Island and New Iberia, Louisiana with winds and storm surge. Trapped tourists due to unexpected arrival. Caused significant damage across the region.

10. Great Miami Hurricane – 1926

The devastating 1926 Miami Hurricane, which devastated most of South Florida and the Bahamas, was a forerunner to the Great Depression. Even though the storm began its path toward the United States as a powerful Category 3, warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico aided in its major strengthening, pushing it to Category 4 status within hours. The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 caused widespread destruction in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi, with over 18.5 inches of rain and significant flooding. The storm was the most damaging in terms of money in US history. There were estimated damages of nearly $105 million and adjusted for inflation, $1.79 billion. In addition to causing extensive damage, the storm perished a great number of people. Over 500 individuals are said to have died as a result of the storm. Similarly, roughly 38,000 people were evacuated in South Florida alone, making it one of the most devastating storms on record.

DetailInformation
NameGreat Miami Hurricane
Year1926
Category4
Highest Winds150 mph
Lowest Pressure930 mb (hPa)
Affected AreasBahamas, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas
Fatalities372-539+
Estimated Damages$100 million (1926 USD)
ImpactWidespread destruction in Miami and surrounding areas, including storm surge, flooding, and wind damage. Devastation in the Bahamas and other affected areas. Major setback for Florida’s land boom and an early sign of the Great Depression.

Conclusion

We have discussed some of the deadliest water storms in the history of the US. However, some of you are still pondering over what exactly caused them. Well, for one to occur, warm ocean water and wet, humid air are required. When humid air flows upward in a low-pressure zone over warm ocean water, water is released from the air, resulting in storm clouds. A hurricane’s air spins as it moves upward. While natural catastrophes often cause damage in their wake, recovery is always more difficult for the world’s poor. The nations having the most hurricanes are, in order, Cuba, Madagascar, Vietnam, Taiwan, Australia, the United States, Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, and China. However, the United States is the most vulnerable to storms that originate in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico because of its location between both. Florida has been caught by almost 41% of the 292 storms that have hit America since 1851. So, if you are thinking of relocating to Florida, you wanna think it through again.

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