10 Worst Hurricanes in United States History

Updated on January 6, 2017
Kim Bryan profile image

I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.

Hurricanes are tropical cyclones formed from rapidly rotating storm system with a low pressure center. The season for hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico is considered to be June 1st until November 30th of each year.

Hurricanes can be anything from a mild inconvenience to a living nightmare for those in its path. The following are ten hurricanes which turned into the latter.

Great Galveston Hurricane
Great Galveston Hurricane | Source

1. The Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900

Indisputably, the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900 was the deadliest hurricane to hit the nation's shores. The storm made landfall on September 8 as a Category 4 storm with 143 miles per hour winds.

The people of Galveston had no warning they were in the direct line of the storm until the evening before the hurricane hit the island-city with 15 feet waves. These powerful storm surges knocked building off their foundation and destroyed more than 3,600 homes. The estimated costs of damages by today's standards was more than $496 million. An estimated 8,000 lives were lost to this deadly storm.

2. Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928

The Okeechobee Hurricane, also known as San Felipe Segundo hurricane, is Puerto Rico's deadliest hurricane in their history but was beat out by Galveston in America.

Quick Facts!

In 1953 an international plan to name hurricanes by a phonetic alphabet in favor of a new international phonetic alphabet was abandoned. That same year, the U.S. began using female names for storms.

Okeechobee landed as a Category 4 storm in West Palm Beach during the early hours of September 17 powered by winds as high as 146 miles per hour. More than 2,500 lives were lost and an estimated $342 million (by today's standards) in damages.

The storm weakened significantly after unleashing it's wrath on southern Florida and traveled up the eastern seaboard. When it was over, Okeechobee had claimed 4,079 men, women, and children and caused $1.3 billion (today's scale) in damages.

3. Hurricane Katrina of 2005

Hurricane Katrina landed in New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 5 storm. As the storm had traveled across Florida, it has slowed and weakened; however, fueled by the warm air of the Gulf, the storm came back with a vengeance. As 175 miles per hours winds hit New Orleans, 16 feet storm surges would beat against the city's levees before moving on to reign chaos among the other Gulf Coast cities in Mississippi and Alabama.

Those levees would become a great point of contention following the storm's aftermath. Allegations of lack of maintenance and misappropriation of funds would be addressed by politicians with an agenda and debated by the talking heads of the mainstream media.

As the blaming and bickering ensued, stunned Americans watched the death total rise to more than 1,800 men, women, and children and causing an estimated $134 billion (2016 USD) in damages.

4. Chenière Caminada Hurricane of 1893

Located in what is today Jefferson Parrish, the island of Chenière Caminada was devastated by the 135 mile per hour winds and 16 feet high storm surges during the early morning of October 2, 1893. Homes and business were destroyed and 779 of the town's 1500 residents were killed in the storm.

After destroying Chenière Caminada, the storm moved on to wreck havoc on the other Gulf Coast states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. When the storm dissipated on October 5, two thousand were dead and there was an estimated $118 million (2016 USD) in damages.

5. Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893

The second deadliest of three devastating hurricanes to hit America's coastline during the 1893 season was the Sea Island Hurricane which made landfall in Savannah, Georgia on August 27, 1893 with 120 miles per hour winds. Storm surges as high as 18 feet were recorded.

Many residents of Sea Island, an outlying island near the Georgia-South Carolina border, had anticipated a severe storm and had evacuated the island. Still the storm claimed the lives of an estimated 2,000 people. Property damages were estimated at more than $25 million (2016 USD).

6. Georgia/South Carolina Hurricane of 1881

Making its landfall during mid-tide on Tybee Island on August 27, 1881, this hurricane is classified as only a Category 2 storm but the sixth deadliest hurricane in America.

August 27 was a Saturday and many people had taken the ferries from Savannah to Tybee Island to enjoy the beaches. However, by noon, the waters had become too rough for the ferries to operate leaving many stranded on the island as there was no road to the mainland.

At times, the winds rushed over Tybee Island at 135 miles per hour, tearing off roofs and ripping chimneys from homes before moving with fury north to Charleston, South Carolina. When the storm finally dissipated, an estimated 700 would be dead and the damages in the millions.

Hurricane Audrey
Hurricane Audrey | Source

7. Hurricane Audrey of 1957

Hurricane Audrey made her one and only landfall on the Texas-Louisiana border but her reach would be quite extensive.

The storm first disrupted offshore drilling and then tore through coastal towns in Texas and Louisiana with 125 mile per hours wind and 12 feet high surges before spawning two tornadoes which brought destruction further inland.

When Hurricane Audrey finally dissipated four days later, the damages totaled an estimated $147 million (1957 USD) and claimed the lives of at least 416 people.

8. Great Labor Day Hurricane of 1935

The 1935 Labor Day hurricane was the first of only three Category 5 hurricanes to make landfall in the U.S.

10 Worst U.S. Hurricanes

  1. 1900 Great Galveston Hurricane
  2. 1928 OkeeChobee Hurricane
  3. 2005 Hurricane Katrina
  4. 1893 Chenière Caminada Hurricane
  5. 1893 Sea Islands Hurricane
  6. 1881 Georgia/South Carolina Hurricane
  7. 1967 Hurricane Audrey
  8. 1935 Great Labor Day Hurricane
  9. 1856 Last Island Hurricane
  10. 1926 Great Miami Hurricane

The Great Labor Day Hurricane swept into the Florida Keys with 185 miles per hour winds and surges up to 20 feet high. This brutal storm destroyed almost every building in its path between the towns of Marathon and Tavernier. The town of Islamorada was obliterated before the storm went on to damage parts of Georgia and South Carolina.

When the storm was finally over, at least 408 people had died as a result and damages were estimated to be over $6 million (1935 USD).

9. Last Island Hurricane of 1856

As Last Island Hurricane passed over Isle Dernière, Louisiana before making landfall in New Iberia, it demolished homes, businesses, and even a full capacity hotel of vacationers.

Winds are recorded as being as much as 150 miles per hour with storm surges of up to 12 feet high. In the aftermath of the storm, it was revealed more than 200 people had died. Of those, 198 were vacationers on the island who had been unable to evacuate because the storm had pushed the Star, a ship which served as the only means of transportation back to the mainland, onto the beach where it remained for the duration of the storm.

10. Great Miami Hurricane of 1926

As a pre-cursor to the Great Depression came the 1926 MIami Hurricane that destroyed much of the greater Miami area and the Bahamas making it the costliest hurricane in United States history. The estimated cost of damages of this hurricane by 2016 standards is more than $165 billion.

Once again the warm Gulf waters only served to strengthen the storm, raising its status from a Category 3 to a Category 4 before it slammed into south Florida. The storm then turned westward to Alabama and Mississippi. Although the damage was not as extensive as that in the Miami area, it was devastating nonetheless. It is estimated more than 500 people perished in this storm.

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Kim Bryan


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      • profile image


        2 years ago

        What about the famous 1938 hurricane? I actually knew a few old-timers that lived through that horrible monster. They told the scariest stories about the ocean tidal wave, how when it was building it took all the water out of the bay and then flooded town upon town for miles and miles east, west, north and south.

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        Brandon Little 

        2 years ago

        Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was worst than all of those, South Florida was better prepare than new Orleans was...

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        You are forgetting Hurricane Camille 1969 .

      • profile image


        2 years ago

        Hurricane Katrina should be number one

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        Thanks used this for a big sumative.

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        i needed this for class work, its very sad for all of those deaths

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        thats sad

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        this is so sad but there in a better place so u shouldn't worry

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        john your right

      • profile image


        3 years ago

        Thank u I needed this for my homework

        It's so sad to see so many deaths

      • parpiypaul profile image


        3 years ago from alausa

        so sad


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