The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (2023)

The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (1)

15. The Sea Islands Hurricane of 1893

The Sea Islands Hurricane hit the coast of Georgia in late August, near Savannah, made a sharp right turn, and moved up the east coast of the United States and eastern Canada before returning to the Atlantic, where it finally dissipated. Long estimated to have made landfall as a category 3 storm, modern analyses of the known data collected during the storm, mostly of the low barometric pressures associated with it, have caused the storm to become considered to have been at least a category 4 hurricane. The Sea Islands off the coast of Georgia were the first to feel the brunt of the storm, and they were overwhelmed by the storm surge.

At least 1,000, and estimates of up to 2,000, people were killed in the storm, most of them on the Sea Islands and most of them by drowning in the storm surge. Many more died in the aftermath as rescue efforts were hampered by succeeding storms. Although the Sea Islands were hit on August 27, relief from the Red Cross did not arrive in the region until early October, more than 1 month later. When relief did arrive, it remained for an intensive rebuilding effort of the homes which were swept away on the islands, which lasted for nearly a year. As the storm swept north it added to the damage inflicted by another hurricane which had struck New York and Long Island on August 24.

The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (2)

16. The Cheniere Caminada Hurricane of 1893

The town of Cheniere Caminada gave its name to the hurricane which destroyed it in 1893, west of Grand Isle. The storm which made landfall there on October 2 came ashore with 135 mph sustained winds and a storm surge exceeding 16 feet. Approximately 1500 residents occupied the town ona penisula of the Louisiana mainland prior to the storm. More than half of them died as the hurricane passed through the region, mostly from the storm surge. In the aftermath of the storm the town was abandoned. “The settlement of Cheniere Caminada has been swept out of existence” read the Thibodeaux Sentinel on October 7, 1893.

The storm, which is also known as the Great October Storm, continued on its way, making a second landfall in Mississippi after crossing the northern Gulf, then moving across the states of the deep south before finally entering the Atlantic Ocean, where it fell apart by the ninth of October. Behind it, across the path it had followed, were at least 2,000 dead according to most estimates. Estimates of the number of injured survivors range as high as 35,000. The economic damage to the southern crops of rice and oranges was heavy, and the Panic of 1893 added to the difficulties of recovery for the agricultural industry across the southern states.

The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (3)

17. Hurricane Katrina in 2005

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall near New Orleans in August of 2005, it was the beginning of a series of disasters which befell the city and its environs. Politicized in its aftermath, the storm led to the failure of levees, an event which caused the majority of the deaths during the disaster, and which led to finger pointing over the responsibility for the failure to maintain the levees adequately. Over 80% of the city of New Orleans was flooded to some extent, and the floodwaters did not recede for weeks. Gulfport, Mississippi took the heaviest of Katrina’s winds, which led to extensive devastation of that community as well.

In total 1,833 dead were attributed to the storm and its aftermath, a total which did not include some of the deaths which occurred as a result of looting and store and business owners protecting their property in New Orleans. Although Katrina is inextricably linked with that city, where the majority of the deaths occurred, its path of destruction was huge. The hurricane also produced a record number of tornadoes for a single day in Georgia, while deaths attributed to the hurricane occurred as far north as Ohio, where flooding from heavy rains claimed at least two victims.

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The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (4)

18. The Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928

The only major hurricane to impact the United States during the 1928 season made up for the shortage of storms that year with its exceptional ferocity. Before making landfall on the American mainland it had already killed almost 2,000 people in the Caribbean islands. Its landfall on the mainland took place on September 17, at West Palm Beach, with the storm carrying sustained winds of 145 mph. It created a storm surge at Lake Okeechobee which flooded hundreds of square miles, putting some communities under twenty feet of water, and drowning more than 2,500 residents of towns such as Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay.

The storm then adopted a curving course, returned to the Atlantic, and made another landfall on the United States at Edisto in South Carolina, below Charleston, and though its winds had by then lessened to 85 mph it was still a deadly storm. The aftermath of the massive storm, which in total killed over 4,000 people, 2,500 of them in the United States, led to numerous flood control projects along the affected coastline. By far the majority of American deaths were in the communities flooded by Lake Okeechobee, and the state of Florida took steps to improve building codes and created the Lake Okeechobee Flood Control District, which worked with the Army Corps of Engineers to create a system to prevent similar disasters.

The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (5)

19. The Great Hurricane of 1780

The hurricane of October, 1780 altered history. As it swept across the Caribbean it caused severe damage to the British fleet spread across the region, with the loss of many warships and troop transports there to defend British interests from French raids, and to support operations of the British army in North America. Both the size of the storm and the number of casualties it caused are estimates, with the number being cited as high a 24,000 in the Leeward Islands alone. It is believed from the journals and diaries left behind that the actual death toll in the Caribbean was likely around 20,000, and though the eye of the storm did not strike the continental United States, its winds and rain moved slowly up the east coast.

At least ten British warships were lost in the storm, severely weakening the empire’s strength in the West Indies. A British man of war was driven inland on the island of Saint Lucia, where the storm surge deposited it on top of a military hospital, destroying both with heavy loss of life. Military operations by Washington’s army in New York were canceled due to the driving rain and high winds felt in the Hudson Valley. The French suffered losses as well, the heavy frigate Junon was lost in the Caribbean with its crew, and approximately 9,000 troops and civilians in French settlements were swept away by storm surges and floods. The Great Hurricane of 1780 cost more, in terms of loss of human life, than entire decade’s worth of storms which occurred later.

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The 20 Deadliest Atlantic Hurricanes to Ever Hit the United States (6)

20. The Galveston Hurricane of 1900

The hurricane known as the Great Storm of 1900 was not only the deadliest hurricane to ever hit the United States, but the greatest natural disaster in American history in terms of loss of human life. Estimates range from 6,000 to 12,000 deaths as a result of the storm, with most agreeing on the frequently cited figure of 8,000 dead. The exact amount of loss of human life will never be known. The storm changed the history of Texas, as the aftermath led to the shift to Houston as the major trade center for investors in the state, and Galveston’s reign as the leading port came to an end.

The entire island of Galveston was flooded by the storm surge and all bridges which connected the island to the mainland were destroyed. An orphanage on the island, St. Mary’s, had 103 residents at the time of the storm; ten nuns and 93 children. Only three children survived. The storm turned to the northeast over Texas and crossed the United States into Canada, where at least 53 Canadians lost their lives, and possibly as many as 350 were killed. Ships were sunk on Lake Erie by the combination of the high winds and the rough waters. In New York City water and harbor debris overtopped the seawall along the battery. In Texas, the city of Galveston was destroyed, though rebuilding began less than three weeks after the storm passed over the island.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“A Texas ghost town yields hard hurricane lessons”. Joe Holley, Houston Chronicle. September 22, 2017

“It’s been 120 years since Georgia had a major hurricane like Michael”. Brad Nitz, WSB-TV Atlanta. October 11, 2018. Online

“Hurricane Diane, 1st $1 Billion Hurricane, Wallops New England in 1955″, New England Historical Society. Online

“Nation’s meanest hurricane devastated the Keys 80 years ago”. Ken Kaye, South Florida Sun Sentinel. August 28, 2015

“The Great New England Hurricane of 1938”. Sarah Zielinski, August 25, 2011

“The Atlantic Hurricane Season of 1969”. R. H. Simpson, Arnold L. Sugg, Monthly Weather Review. April, 1970

“1915 – Galveston Hurricane”. Entry, Hurricanes: Science and Society. Online

“Heart of Louisiana: 1915 hurricane”. WVUE TV. June 22, 2018

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“A Hurricane Destroyed This Louisiana Resort Town, Never to Be Inhabited Again”. Erick Trickey, January 4, 2017

“60 years ago, Hurricane Audrey became one of the deadliest storms in US history”. Darla Guillen, Houston Chronicle. July 19, 2017

“1926 Miami: The blow that broke the boom”. Stuart McIver, South Florida Sun Sentinel. September 19, 1993

“Deadliest hurricanes on record to hit the United States”. Factbox, Reuters. August 25, 2017

“Texas Hurricane History”. David M. Roth, Weather Prediction Center. April 8, 2010. Pdf, online

“Cheniere Caminada’s ‘Great October Storm'”. Christie Matherne Hall, Country Roads Magazine. September 27, 2016

“Looking Back: 10 Things to Know About Hurricane Katrina”. Avery Stone, Yahoo Life. Online

“The 1928 Hurricane”. Entry, Palm Beach County History Online

(Video) Top 10 worst Hurricanes in History

“The Great Hurricane of 1780: The Story of the Greatest and Deadliest Hurricane of the Caribbean and the Americas”. Wayne Neely. 2012

“As Terrible As Harvey Is, The Galveston Hurricane Of 1900 Was Much, Much Worse”. Kevin Murnane, Forbes. August 27, 2017


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