What Was the Strongest Hurricane in US History?

A woman examines the debris left behind in the destructive Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Editorial credit: Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com.
A woman examines the debris left behind in the destructive Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Editorial credit: Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com.

Some of the world's deadliest hurricanes occur in North and Central America. Over the past century and earlier, hurricanes have wreaked significant havoc in countries within this region. Some of the earliest and most-detailed records of hurricanes and their destructive power run far back to the 16th century when the Great Hurricane of 1780 claimed the lives of at least 22,000 people. The US as a country has also had to grapple with some devastatingly strong hurricanes with some so strong they left tens of thousands dead and even more homeless. Below is a brief history of the worst hurricanes that were documented to have ever hit US soil.

4 Worst Hurricanes in American History

Galveston (1900)

Also referred to as the Great Storm of 1900, Hurricane Galveston has since gone down into history books as the deadliest natural disaster ever to strike the US. In the US alone, the hurricane left at least 8,000 fatalities according to official records. However, the estimated death toll has often been claimed to run as high as 12,000 people. In addition to the fatalities, virtually every house in Galveston was damaged with more than 3,000 of them being destroyed. 30,000 people were left homeless out of the population of 38,000.

Mitch (1998)

Hurricane Mitch is on record as the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane. It was experienced in 1998. The hurricane formed in the western parts of the Caribbean Sea and drifted through favorable conditions that saw it gather strength enough to earn Category 5 status. Mitch hit Florida as a tropical storm after which it became extratropical and dissipated 17 days after its formation. Mitch resulted in the deaths of at least 11,000 people with more than 7,000 in Honduras alone. In total, Mitch caused damage worth $2.005 billion across Central America and Florida.

Flora (1963)

With a death toll of at least 7,186 people, hurricane Flora ranks highly among the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes. Flora developed on September 26, 1963 about 755 miles southwest of the Cape Verde islands. Although it remained a weak depression for many days, hurricane Flora attained tropical storm status on September 29 and quickly strengthened to a Category 3 hurricane. By the time it reached the Caribbean, hurricane Flora was carrying winds of speeds as high as 145 miles per hour. Flora caused significant damage in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica, and finally dissipated after striking Florida. The damage caused by Flora was estimated to be more than $200 million.

Okeechobee (1928)

Hurricane Okeechobee was the only major hurricane in 1928’s hurricane season. It formed off of Africa’s west coast on September 6 in about three days it had intensified to become a Category 1 hurricane. About six days after formation it struck Guadeloupe where it resulted in the deaths of more than 1,200 people. By this time it had attained Category 4 intensity. On September 13, Okeechobee reached Category 5 intensity and struck Puerto Rico. It hit Florida on September 17 destroying more than 1,711 homes in West Palm Beach and causing damage of about $25 million in the city. It caused the death of at least 4,075 people.

Reduced Fatalities

Technological development has allowed for improved forecasting of hurricane weather and also a prediction of their paths. Over the years, there has been a decrease in the number of fatalities not because hurricanes have become weaker but rather because of improved response to damage that is caused by hurricanes. The damage that hurricanes cause remains huge with the likes of Hurricane Katrina of 2005 causing damage worth $125 billion and claiming as many as 1,836 lives.

What Was the Strongest Hurricane in US History?

RankHurricaneYearDeaths (Estimate)
5San Ciriaco18993,433
8Central America19342,000
10Chenier Caminanda18931,800

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