When we talk about the most powerful nations in the world, the name of the United States invariably pops up near the top. And why not? The US is indeed one of the most powerful nations in many aspects.
Which country has the greatest nominal GDP? Which nation houses and maintains the most powerful military in the world? And which nation has the most impactful political sway in international politics? Which nation has the most powerful currency in the world?
The answer to these questions, and more, is the United States of America.
Despite possessing such great strength, there are a few things even the most powerful nation in the world fears. And hurricanes are one of them.
Today, we’ll talk about hurricanes. Not the usual tropical cyclones the country witnesses every year, but the ones that shook the country. We’ll discuss the storms that wreaked unprecedented havoc in the regions they struck. And we’ll talk about the impact these hurricanes had on the people, the places, and the history of the States.
In other words, we’ll discuss nine of the worst hurricanes the United States has ever suffered.
Galveston Hurricane – 1900
Death toll: 6,000-12,000
Cost of damages: $35.4 mn ($1.25 bn in 2022)
When the officials at Galveston Weather Bureau heard the reports, they ignored them, assuming it was a normal storm. However, little did they know what was about to occur- the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900. It was not just the worst hurricane in the United States but also the deadliest natural disaster the States has ever witnessed.
The official reports on casualties put the death toll somewhere near 8,000. But the exact number is estimated to be much higher, up to 12,000. And most of this number comes from Galveston, Texas, where the storm landed on September 9.
In addition to the lives it claimed, the storm destroyed thousands of structures and left over 10,000 people homeless in Galveston alone.
San Felipe-Okeechobee Hurricane – 1928
Death toll: 4,100+
Cost of damages: $100 mn ($1.74 bn in 2022)
The Okeechobee hurricane of 1928 came with winds of up to 145 mph when it reached Florida on September 17. But by then, it had already caused much damage in the Caribbean and the Bahamas, killing 1600 people.
But Florida was the most unfortunate, as it suffered the highest casualties– over 2500. Thousands of people drowned in the floods in the cities of Belle Glade, Canal Point, South Bay, and others.
It weakened considerably as it crossed Florida out into the Atlantic. But it struck the Carolinas the next day with much less intensity, causing little damage. Then it wandered off, leaving destruction and horror and sad memories.
San Ciriaco Hurricane – 1899
Death toll: 3,855
Cost of damages: $20 mn
The San Ciriaco hurricane was a Category-4 hurricane, with the highest observed winds of 150 mph. It caused the most havoc in Puerto Rico, claiming over 3,300 lives and displacing over 250,000 people.
This was also the longest-lived hurricane in the Atlantic, extending for over four weeks! The storm also caused significant damage in North Carolina. Several bridges were destroyed. And the island of Hatteras came almost entirely underwater. But other parts of North Carolina also suffered much destruction, including Diamond City and Cape Lookout.
Hurricane Maria – 2017
Death toll: 3,059
Cost of damages: $91.61 bn ($111 bn in 2022)
For many people in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria will remain a nightmare for the rest of their lives. After all, it was the deadliest natural disaster in the island’s history.
But it was no good in the mainland US, either. Although the hurricane claimed just seven lives in the States (including 3 in the Virgin Islands), it brought another catastrophe. A severe electrical outage – the worst blackout in the country’s history. Several parts of the hurricane-hit areas were in partial or complete blackout for months.
Cheniere Caminada Hurricane – 1893
Death toll: 2,000 (est.)
Cost of damages: $5 mn
The Sea Islands hurricane was devastating and frightening for the people of the US. But they didn’t know that the worst was yet to come. And this time, it was the people of Louisiana who had to face one of the deadliest storms in history.
The storm hit the southeastern coasts of Louisiana on the night of October 1-2 at peak intensity. The winds blew at 130 mph, making the storm a Category-4 hurricane. But as it traveled east and struck Mississippi on October 2, it weakened into a Category-3 storm. Nevertheless, the hurricane wreaked havoc, especially in Louisiana, where damages were the most.
Hurricane Katrina – 2005
Death toll: 1,836
Cost of damages: $125 bn ($190.55 bn in 2022)
Hurricane Katrina is at par with the Sea Islands Hurricane in terms of casualties and with Hurricane Harvey in damages. With winds of 175 mph, the devastating hurricane first hit Southern Florida on August 25. But after intensifying and weakening over the Gulf of Mexico, Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi.
However, New Orleans in Louisiana bore the brunt of the disaster. Over a thousand people perished as most of the city flooded with water. Mississippi was the second-most affected state, with around 238 deaths.
Sea Islands Hurricane – 1893
Death toll: 1,000-2,000
Cost of damages: $1 mn
Over a hundred long years have passed since the Sea Islands hurricane landed in Georgia. But the memories of this hurricane have stood the test of time even after such a long time.
The storm formed on August 15 and became a hurricane by the 19th. After raging through Cape Verde and the Bahamas, the hurricane struck the US near Savannah, Georgia, at 120 mph.
The Category-3 hurricane caused unprecedented destruction at the time. And most of the people who died succumbed to increased water levels due to the rain and floods.
Labor Day Hurricane – 1935
Death toll: 423
Cost of damages: $100 mn ($2.17 bn in 2022)
The Great Labor Day Hurricane struck the Florida Keys on September 2 with full intensity, triggering winds of 185 mph. Due to its dangerously strong winds, this Category-5 hurricane remains the most intense hurricane ever in the US.
In the next few days, the hurricane sped through Florida and then Maryland, causing widespread havoc. It killed over 400 people across the regions. And the destruction that resulted from floods and storms caused near-total destruction in the Keys.
Hurricane Harvey – 2017
Death toll: 107
Cost of damages: $125 bn ($151.8 bn in 2022)
The United States can never forget this hurricane that swept across Texas and Louisiana in August 2017. No, not because of the lives it snatched. The fatalities were relatively lower than those due to other major hurricanes. But in terms of damages, Hurricane Harvey was indeed the worst of all time, along with Katrina.
This Category-4 hurricane poured incessant rains and floods over the areas it affected. And it brought strong winds that blew at speeds of 130 mph. Besides claiming 107 lives, the hurricane also displaced 30,000 people. It also damaged half a million vehicles and over 300,000 structures.
Why is the United States so susceptible to hurricanes?
After reading this blog, it is natural to wonder why the US is so prone to hurricanes. You might also wonder why all the hurricanes only hit the eastern part of the country and not the western shores. The reason, of course, is geographical.
Hurricanes in the northern hemisphere tend to move west and northwest. As a result, most of the hurricanes that form in the Atlantic strike the States. On the other hand, hurricanes that take shape near the western coasts move away further westwards. Besides, higher temperatures near the eastern coast favor the formation of hurricanes.
Well, hurricanes are a natural phenomenon, and we can do nothing to stop them. But you can surely drop some comments and tell us how you liked the blog.
Besides hurricanes, the United States is also quite popular for its wine – the country is ranked the 4th largest producer of wine globally. If wine tasting is something you’d enjoy, check out these vineyards in Washington and California to plan your next trip.