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The Worst Natural Disasters In US History

The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was the deadliest hurricane in US history, claiming thousands of lives.

The United States has been ravaged by its share of natural disasters that have resulted in an exorbitant loss of property and tragic loss of life as well as injuries. The disasters have been a result of natural causes such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and flooding, while human actions, including terrorism, have also contributed to these disasters. Some of the worst disasters in the history of the United States are listed below.

Three Worst Disasters in US History

1900 Galveston Tropical Cyclone

At the time of the 1900 disasters, Galveston was thriving as the largest city in Texas. However, with the bustling activities and progress that the town was undergoing, many claimed the authorities were being complacent by not building a seawall to protect the city. On September 8, 1900, the city witnessed a high category four hurricane with an estimated wind speed of 145 miles per hour. The storm’s origin has never been clear because there was limited observation ability in 1900. The hurricane caused loss of lives estimated between 6,000 and 12,000 making it the deadliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. After the storm, survivors were sheltered in temporary US army tents along the shores. Homes were rebuilt from salvaged material and within weeks the shipping of cotton began again.

1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire (Urban Conflagration)

In the spring of 1906, San Francisco residents were awoken by an earthquake. Although this earthquake lasted less than one minute, it set devastating chains of fire that lasted four days. The perceived shaking of the earth resulting from the release of energy created seismic waves. The magnitude of the earthquake was estimated at 7.7 to 7.9 and not only broke the gas pipe that sparked the fire but also broke the main water pipes, which made it difficult for the fire department to put out the fire. The fire left a trail of destruction with 500 city blocks burnt down, 3,000 to 6,000 lives lost and 225,000 people left homeless. An estimated property worth $400 million was lost during the fire. It is the second worst natural disaster to have ever occurred in the US.

1928 Okeechobee Hurricane

The Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928 was one of the deadliest hurricanes that have ever occurred in the United States. It particularly hit Puerto Rico and Florida hard. The hurricane development was first reported on September 6 of 1928 and with the continued observation the hurricane was quickly developing in different places, including Dakar, Senegal. Residents of Puerto Rico were advised to relocate to safer places, but when the hurricane did not arrive at the estimated time, they returned to their homes. On the evening of September 16, a storm with a sustained wind speed of 160 miles per hour hit Puerto Rico killing over 3,000 people and destroying property worth over $50 million. Due to initial preparation, the cyclone caused minimum damage as compared to the effects of other cyclones.

Turning Back the Tide on Disaster in America

In US history, natural disasters have led to significant loss of life and damage to property. The US government has put into place strategies to counter and prevent such disasters from happening. For example, seawalls have been built along the shores to control effects of cyclone and storms while the public is continuously informed of any looming dangers especially those living near water bodies.

The Worst Disasters In US History

RankDisaster Fatalities (Est.)LocationYear
1Galveston Tropical Cyclone6,000 - 12,000 Texas1,900
2San Francisco Earthquake3,000 - 6,000 California1,906
3Okeechobee Hurricane3,000Florida, Puerto Rico1,928
4Johnstown Flood2,000Pennsylvania1,889
5Cheniere Caminada Hurricane2,000Louisiana1,893
6Hurricane Katrina1,836Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio2,005
71980 United States Heatwave1,700Central and Southern United States1,980
8Sea Islands Hurricane1,000 - 2,000 Georgia, South Carolina1,893
9Chicago Heat Wave739Illinois1,995
10Tri-State Tornado695 - 747 Illinois, Indiana, Missouri1,925

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