CHARLOTTE, N.C. - There have been a lot of memorable hurricanes over the years that have affected the United States — from Maine to Texas. The devastation from these storms can vary significantly, from wind damage to flooding, to injuries and death.
The silver lining in these situations is that communities and people often come together to help others in times of tragedy.
When combining the worst of the worst, there are a handful of storms that changed the history of the country. Here are the five of the most significant hurricanes to have made landfall in the U.S.
1. Galveston Hurricane of 1900
The “Great” Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is by far the deadliest natural disaster to impact the United States. It made landfall on Sept. 8, 1900 as a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 mph. After crossing over Cuba as a tropical storm, it emerged from the Florida straight and quickly intensified to hurricane status. The storm continued to churn in the Gulf of Mexico, gaining strength before making a right turn into Texas. Galveston was hit with catastrophic damage, but the destruction wasn’t confined to the Gulf area. The storm continued its path north and slowly weakened as it passed over Oklahoma, the Great Lakes and Halifax, Nova Scotia in Canada.
Even though there have been more intense hurricanes over the years, the Galveston Hurricane caused massive destruction and a record death toll. It is easily is considered to be the worst storm to hit the United States.
- Lowest pressure was 936 mb.
- Galveston sits at 9 feet above sea level and the storm surge rose to 15 feet.
- 3,600 homes were destroyed.
- 8,000 people died, which was about 20 percent of Galveston’s population and 30,000 injured.
- $21 million in damage, the equivalent of $641 million in 2019.
2. Miami Hurricane of 1926
In the early 1920s, Miami was the fastest-growing city in the United States with an influx of people from all over the country. Therefore, a good portion of the population was unfamiliar with hurricanes and the effects. On Sept. 11, 1926, ships contacted the U.S. Weather Bureau to notify them that a hurricane was about 1,000 miles east of the Leeward Islands. The storm continued its path west crossing over Puerto Rico, Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas. The initial reports from the U.S. Weather Bureau informed Florida residents that the storm would not hit their state, and a hurricane warning wasn’t issued until less than 24 hours before the storm made landfall. The 1926 Miami hurricane made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 18, 1926. The eye passed directly over Miami and skies cleared for about 35 minutes, so everyone thought the storm was over. Many people emerged from their homes and crowded the streets not knowing that the worst of the storm was yet to come.
- Max winds recorded were 150 mph with a low pressure of 930 mb.
- 10-foot storm surge at the height of the storm.
- $105 million in damage, the equivalent of $1.5 billion in 2019.
- Storm made a second landfall in Alabama and Mississippi.
- 372 people died and 6,000 were injured.
- The devastation of this hurricane combined with the Great Depression wrecked Florida’s economy. The state didn’t fully recover until the 1940s.
3. Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928
Just two years after the Miami hurricane, Florida got served another massive blow that crippled the southern part of the state. The Okeechobee Hurricane is one of the deadliest and most destructive storms to ever hit the United States. On Sept. 6, 1928, the tropical cyclone developed off the African coast and quickly intensified to a tropical storm by the end of the day. The storm continued to gain strength while sliding west across the Atlantic becoming a Category 4 hurricane just before striking Guadeloupe on Sept. 12. The hurricane then proceeded to roll over Martinique, Montserrat, and Nevis as a Category 4, leaving a path of devastation in its wake. On Sept. 13, it slammed into Puerto Rico as a Category 5 hurricane with winds of 160 mph. Finally, after several days of battering the Bahamas, the Okeechobee hurricane made landfall around West Palm Beach, Florida on Sept. 17 as a Category 4 storm. The hurricane’s 145 mph wind and high storm surge destroyed 1,711 homes along the Florida coast. It then turned north slowly weakening to a Category 1 hurricane before heading back into the Atlantic and making a second landfall in South Carolina.
- 4,079 deaths, second deadliest hurricane on record: 1,200 in Guadeloupe, 312 in Puerto Rico and 2,500 in U.S.
- 160 mph winds and low pressure of 929 mb.
- 100 million in damage, the equivalent of $1.4 billion in 2019.
- Devastation in Puerto Rico: 24,728 homes destroyed, 192,444 damaged and 500,000 people homeless.
- Storm surge caused Lake Okeechobee to pour out the southern edge, flooding hundreds of square miles with as much as 20 feet of water.
4. Hurricane Andrew of 1992
This Category 5 storm pummeled South Florida and the Gulf Coast in August 1992. Tropical Storm Andrew actually developed in the east Atlantic on Aug. 16 and then spent a week meandering west with no significant signs of strengthening. The storm rapidly intensified to a Category 5 hurricane just before reaching the Bahamas on Aug. 23. Even though it briefly dropped to a Category 4 over the Bahamas, Andrew quickly returned to Category 5 status before slamming into the Florida coast on Aug. 24. It made landfall with a central pressure of 922 mb, making it the fourth most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. The hurricane emerged in the Gulf of Mexico a few hours later as a Category 4. Andrew quickly turned right and weakened to a Category 3 before making a second landfall in Louisiana on Aug. 28.
- 175 mph winds and low pressure of 922 mb.
- $26.5 billion in damage.
- Home damage: 63,000 destroyed and 124,000 damaged.
- 65 deaths
- 1.4 million people lost power at the height of the storm.
- 70,000 trees down in the Everglades, and 80 percent of the trees were lost in the Atchafalaya River Basin.
- 187 million fresh water fish were killed throughout the basin and Bayou Lafourche.
- $500 million in losses for the oil companies.
5. Hurricane Katrina of 2005
The Gulf coast was hit with a monster storm in 2005 as Hurricane Katrina barreled in and crushed everything in its path. Katrina tops the list for the costliest natural disaster and third deadliest storm to ever hit the U.S. This storm developed over the Bahamas on Aug. 23 and quickly intensified into Tropical Storm Katrina the very next day. The tropical storm headed westward toward Florida slowly strengthening to a Category 1 hurricane just two hours before making landfall at Hallandale Beach, Florida on Aug. 25. It briefly weakened to a tropical storm over Florida before emerging into the Gulf of Mexico on Aug. 26. Katrina began to rapidly intensify and strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane over the warm Gulf waters. This storm eventually made a second landfall as a Category 3 hurricane on Aug. 29 in southeast Louisiana.
Katrina’s most catastrophic impacts were from storm surge rather than wind because of its sheer size. The large field of strong onshore winds pushed record breaking storm surge into the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The surge penetrated 6 miles inland across most of South Mississippi, and up to 12 miles inland along bays and rivers. Water also pushed west into Lake Pontchartrain, leading to a storm surge of 10 to 19 feet. The network of canals and channels around New Orleans was initiated with massive amounts of water, leading to the breaching of levees and flood walls and 80 percent of New Orleans under water.
- $108 billion in damages, the costliest on record.
- Central pressure dropped to 902 mb, which was the lowest pressure observed in an Atlantic basin hurricane since Gilbert in 1988.
- Estimated 28-foot storm surge at its peak, the highest surge on record in the U.S.
- 1,577 people died, with 200 of these were killed from flooding in Mississippi, and 6,000 were injured.
- Made landfall near Buras, Louisiana with a pressure of 920 mb, which remains the lowest pressure on record for a Category 3 landfall.
- More than 10,000 gallons of oil was spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.