With the recent devastation wrought by hurricanes Harvey and Irma many of our fellow citizens residing in the coastal regions of the US will spend months and years trying to recover some semblances of their previous lives. This will be followed by the yet to-be-determined misery that will result from hurricanes Maria and Jose.

Recently I heard a TV talking head comment that “hurricanes are the price you pay if you want to live on or near the ocean”.  Technically correct, I suppose, but still an idiotic and callous remark made by someone well removed from the actual chaos and heartache.  Lost homes.  Lost lives.  Destruction of artifacts of lives.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Jose are just the most recent instances of the violence that mother nature has cast upon our shores.  They will not be the last.  What have been the worst hurricanes in US History?

The Worst Hurricanes in US History

Hurricane Katrina is well-documented and still fresh in our collective memory.  What about some of the other most devastating hurricanes to impact the US………

The Galveston Hurricane


Galveston Hurricane-Galveston Wreckage

Galveston Wreckage

The hurricane that virtually destroyed Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1908 did not have a name.  Hurricanes were not being named back in 1900.  At time of impact, the hurricane was a category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale with sustained winds of ~ 145 MPH.  http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/aboutsshws.php

Early-warning systems were crude and unreliable at the onset of the 20th century.  As a result, the unfortunate citizens of Galveston received no official warning until September 7.  This left precious little time for evacuation or taking any other precautionary measures and, therefore, the city was wholly unprepared for the impending disaster that was to devastate it.

In 1900, Galveston sat at a mere 8 feet above sea level.  Early on the morning of September 8 a storm surge of ~ 15 feet plowed across the helpless city destroying everything in its path.  No solid death-count was ever agreed upon but it was estimated that between 6,000 and 10,000 lives were lost.  The number of dead was more than the surviving residents could bury.  Many of the bodies were loaded onto barges and dumped into the Gulf.  That did not work as strong tides washed many of the bodies back onto shore.  Many bodies were then burned.

The Galveston hurricane was—and still is—the greatest natural disaster in US history.

The city was rebuilt, including the construction of a massive ten-mile long seawall; however, Galveston was permanently damaged.  The city was never able to regain its former luster.

The Labor Day Hurricane

Hurricanes-The Labor Day Hurricane

The Labor Day Hurricane

Worst Hurricanes in US History-Pic of Mass Burial of Victims

Labor Day Hurricane Victims

The 1935 “Labor Day” Hurricane that struck the Florida Keys still holds the record for the strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States.  Storm surges of 20 feet caused massive devastation in the Florida Keys and created subsequent havoc up the Atlantic seaboard.  The hurricane set records for sea-level pressure and wind speeds that have yet to be broken.  It was the first category 5 hurricane to ever make landfall in the US.  It would hold that distinction until hurricane Camille made landfall in 1969.

At the time of the storm, the primary link between the Keys and mainland Florida was a solitary railroad line.  That lone link was incapacitated by the storm and, as a result, relief efforts were significantly hamstrung.

The hurricane killed ~485 people.  Most of the fatalities occurred within the Florida Keys.  The loss of life would certainly have been greater had the Keys been more densely populated.  At the time of the hurricane, the total population of the Keys stood at only ~ 1,000 souls.

Hurricane Camille


Worst Hurricanes in US History-Beached Ship in Gulfport Mississippi

Beached Ship in Gulfport Mississippi

Camille holds the #2 spot in the list of worst hurricanes in US history.  In terms of duration and intensity Camille was only surpassed by the Labor Day Hurricane.

Camille made landfall near Waveland, Mississippi during the early morning hours of August 18, 1969.  With it came an enormous storm surge of 24 feet.  Wind speeds are believed to have reached 175 MPH.  The storm flattened everything in its path and cut a wide swath of devastation across southeast Mississippi and southwest Alabama. To varying degrees, the entire Gulf Coast was impacted by the storm.  Crops across the hardest hit regions were completely obliterated due to high winds and flooding.

By the time Camille had finished her rampage 259 people had lost their lives.  An additional 9,000 people were injured.  It was estimated that ~ 6,000 homes had been completely destroyed with another ~ 15,000 sustaining major damage.

Legend has it that 23 people in Pass Christian, Mississippi held a “Hurricane Party” in their apartment building. Camille’s eye passed directly over the building killing 22 of the 23 party-goers.

Hurricane Andrew


Hurricanes-Path of Hurricane Andrew

Path of Hurricane Andrew

Hurricane Andrew was born on August 16, 1992 and lived through August 28, 1992.  Andrew reached its highest intensity while passing over the Bahamas on August 23.  By the time that Andrew made landfall in Homestead, Florida it was a full-fledged category 5 locomotive.

In terms of monetary cost, Andrew held the record until surpassed by Katrina in 2005.  By the time its strength had diminished Andrew had created $26 billion in damage—including 63,000 homes completely destroyed and another 125,000 damaged.  Areas in South Florida bore the brunt of the storm.  Miami-Dade county was hit exceptionally hard and, as a result, 65 people were killed.  Had Andrew veered just a bit further north the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale would have been hit.  The death toll would have undoubtedly been higher had those densely populated cities been in Andrew’s path.


Worst Hurricanes in US History-Pic of Andrew Devestation

Andrew Devastation


How Hurricanes are Rated

We are all familiar with the fact that hurricanes are rated on on a scale of 1 to 5, but what do those rating mean and how are they derived?  Here is a very good source of information on that subject….


Hurricanes vs Typhoons

What is the difference between a hurricane and a typhoon?  There is only one difference—location.  If the storm originates in the Atlantic or northeast Pacific it is designated as a hurricane.  Storms that originate in the northwest Pacific are called typhoons.  Due to the Coriolis effect, storms in the northern hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise while storms in the southern hemisphere rotate clockwise.

Coriolis Effect

Mother Nature is beautiful, glorious, and sometimes harsh.  Always, always, deserving of our respect and awe!
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