The Most Destructive Hurricanes Since 1950

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Those who have survived a powerful hurricane know the storms have an enormous human toll. CNN producer Kim Segal reported seeing extreme conditions when she entered the New Orleans Morial Convention Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. "It was chaos. There was nobody there, nobody in charge. And there was nobody giving even water...We saw...people dying in front of you," Segal said.

Although hurricanes hit U.S. soil nearly every year (with as many as eight within a calendar year), those who do not experience their wrath may be unaware of exactly how terrifyingly powerful and destructive a hurricane can be.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a hurricane as "an intense tropical weather system with a well defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher." In 1950, NOAA began the now-famous naming convention of tropical cyclones; and in 1971 the National Hurricane Center developed the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale to classify hurricanes based on wind speed, as a way to estimate likely property damage. Hurricanes range from Category 1 (at least 74 mph) to Category 5 (at least 156 mph).

FindTheData found looked at every hurricane that made landfall in the U.S. since the naming convention began in 1950. The FindTheData team then found the total cost of damages for each hurricane, as reported by NOAA. The cost of damages was then adjusted for inflation to 2015 USD and sorted to find the 30 most destructive hurricanes. Hurricanes are a serious force of nature that cause billions of dollars of damage annually. Some may think living along the southeast coast of the U.S. is full of sunshine and leisure, but the rewards do not come without their risks.

#30. Hurricane Allen - August, 1980

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $3,566,000,000
Total Deaths: 269
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

According to NOAA's National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Allen is the only Atlantic Basin hurricane to achieve sustained winds of 190 mph. These incredibly high winds destroyed over 500 homes in the Caribbean, and damaged buildings throughout Texas and Louisiana. Because Hurricane Allen was so destructive, the name was retired from the Atlantic tropic storms list by the World Meteorological Organization in 1981.

#29. Hurricane Carol - August, 1954

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $4,069,000,000
Total Deaths: 72
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

On Aug. 25, 1954, Hurricane Carol developed from a tropical wave near the Bahamas and slowly gained power as it headed for the northeast coast of the United States. On Aug. 31, Carol made landfall on Long Island and in Connecticut at peak intensity, before continuing toward Canada. Throughout New England, 150,000 people were left without electricity, while 1,500 homes were destroyed and another 10,000 damaged.

#28. Hurricane Dennis - July, 2005

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $4,853,000,000
Total Deaths: 88
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Hurricane Dennis waned slightly to a Category 3 hurricane when it reached the U.S. in 2005, but it struck Cuba with Category 4 force and caused major flooding and landslides throughout the Caribbean. In Cuba alone, Dennis caused over $1.4 billion in damages.

#27. Hurricane David - September, 1979

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $5,026,000,000
Total Deaths: 2,068
Category at U.S. Landfall: 2

Hurricane David was one of the most fatal hurricanes of the last century. The storm hit the Dominican Republic with full-force, Category 5 winds. Entire villages were wiped out, and over 70 percent of all crops were destroyed. Of the 2,068 deaths caused by Hurricane David, 2,000 occurred in the Dominican Republic.

#26. Hurricane Celia - August, 1970

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $5,679,000,000
Total Deaths: 28
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Hurricane Celia hit the Caribbean and Florida, but Texas got the brunt of the storm. Nearly 9,000 homes were destroyed, and, because of extensive damages, the University of Corpus Christi had to permanently shut down.

#25. Hurricane Alicia - August, 1983

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $6,185,000,000
Total Deaths: 21
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Another hurricane that mainly impacted Texas, Hurricane Alicia hit the Galveston area with a vengeance. Alicia was an incredibly costly storm, causing an oil spill near Texas City and displacing five feet of sand around Galveston's beach neighborhoods.

#24. Hurricane Fran - September, 1996

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $6,282,000,000
Total Deaths: 27
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

North Carolina was severely damaged by Hurricane Fran in 1996. 1.3 million people lost power as the state was deluged with over 16 inches of water. Massive flooding caused numerous automobile accidents and 13 people in North Carolina were killed.

#23. Hurricane Isabel - September, 2003

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $6,915,000,000
Total Deaths: 51
Category at U.S. Landfall: 2

Hurricane Isabel originated in the Caribbean, but the southeastern U.S. took the worst of the storm. According to NOAA, the James River in Virginia rose nine feet and numerous structures, including Virginia Commonwealth University, were severely damaged by heavy flooding.

#22. Hurricane Beulah - September, 1967

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $7,094,000,000
Total Deaths: 688
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Hurricane Beulah gained Category 5 status in the Yucatan Peninsula, and reached the U.S. at Category 3 strength. Padre Island, Texas, was hit with 18- to 20-foot waves, and over 100 tornadoes whipped across Texas as a result of Hurricane Beulah.

#21. Hurricane Donna - September, 1960

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $7,204,000,000
Total Deaths: 364
Category at U.S. Landfall: 4

Hurricane Donna swept through Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas before pounding the southern tip of Florida. Parts of the coral reef near Key Largo, as well as mangrove forests in Everglades National Park were destroyed. President Eisenhower issued a state of emergency for Florida and North Carolina. Hurricane Donna remains one of the costliest hurricanes to hit the southeastern U.S.

#20. Hurricane Gustav - September, 2008

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $7,274,000,000
Total Deaths: 153
Category at U.S. Landfall: 2

Hurricane Gustav hit Cuba with Category 4 strength, but inflicted the most damage upon Haiti. According to Relief Web, 7,200 people in Haiti lost their homes and 76 died due to flooding and mudslides.

#19. Hurricane Frederic - September, 1979

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $7,507,000,000
Total Deaths: 12
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Fortunately, Hurricane Frederic did not cause a large number of fatalities because many people heeded evacuation warnings. However, property destruction was widespread. Over 80 percent of the buildings along Gulf Shores, Ala., were completely destroyed.

#18. Hurricane Opal - October, 1995

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $8,411,000,000
Total Deaths: 63
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

In the fall of 1995, Hurricane Opal sprung up in the Yucatan Peninsula. Before Opal was even classified as a hurricane, heavy rains and flooding caused over 50 deaths in Mexico and Guatemala.

#17. Hurricane Camille - August, 1969

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $9,168,000,000
Total Deaths: 259
Category at U.S. Landfall: 5

Hurricane Camille landed on the shores of Mississippi with violent, 175 mph winds and a 24-foot storm surge. Over $6 billion worth of damage was inflicted on the beach towns of Mississippi alone.

#16. Hurricane Jeanne - September, 2004

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $9,608,000,000
Total Deaths: 3,035
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Hurricane Jeanne is the 12th deadliest Atlantic hurricane to hit the U.S. Fatalities were almost entirely isolated to a small region in Haiti. Over 13 inches of rain fell in the northern mountains of Haiti, and disastrous mudslides ensued. Nearly all of the deaths inflicted by Hurricane Jeanne (over 3,000) were in Haiti.

#15. Hurricane Floyd - September, 1999

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $9,813,000,000
Total Deaths: 87
Category at U.S. Landfall: 2

Hurricane Floyd struck the Bahamas as a Category 4 storm. The winds died down as Floyd hit Florida, but the torrential rains soaked the entire southeastern U.S. Entire towns in North Carolina went underwater, and 51 people died in that state alone.

#14. Hurricane Betsy - September, 1965

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $10,681,000,000
Total Deaths: 81
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Hurricane Betsy was one of the largest hurricanes ever to hit the U.S. According to Hurricane Science, "Hurricane Betsy was the first hurricane to accrue damages over $1 billion, and was thus nicknamed "Billion Dollar Betsy.'"

#13. Hurricane Agnes - June, 1972

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $11,904,000,000
Total Deaths: 128
Category at U.S. Landfall: 1

Although Hurricane Agnes was only a Category 1 storm when it hit Panama City, Fla., heavy flooding in N.Y. and Pa., destroyed numerous buildings and crops. Hurricane Agnes was the first Category 1 hurricane to have its name retired.

#12. Hurricane Frances - September, 2004

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $12,355,000,000
Total Deaths: 50
Category at U.S. Landfall: 2

Hurricane Frances occurred in September 2004, just before Hurricane Jeanne touched down in Haiti. Florida felt the worst effects from Frances. Gov. Jeb Bush declared a state of emergency and Kennedy Space Center, as well as Disney World, shut down. Millions of acres of citrus crops were ruined, resulting in billions of dollars worth of damage.

#11. Hurricane Georges - September, 1998

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $14,129,000,000
Total Deaths: 604
Category at U.S. Landfall: 2

Hurricane Georges hit seven different countries: Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, the United States and Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic suffered the most damage as thousands of crops were destroyed and 380 Dominicans lost their lives.

#10. Hurricane Rita - September, 2005

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $14,559,000,000
Total Deaths: 125
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

At the heels of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita ripped through the already devastated area. The entire southeast was barraged with heavy rains and 100 mph winds. Hurricane Rita was responsible for one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history; over 3 million people were forced to evacuate their homes in Louisiana and Texas.

#9. Hurricane Irene - August, 2011

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $17,486,000,000
Total Deaths: 61
Category at U.S. Landfall: 1

Hurricane Irene's path of destruction stretched from Puerto Rico to Nova Scotia, Canada. Irene is ranked as the seventh costliest hurricane in U.S. history, causing $15.8 billion dollars worth of damage in the U.S. alone.

#8. Hurricane Hugo - September, 1989

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $19,108,000,000
Total Deaths: 107
Category at U.S. Landfall: 4

Hurricane Hugo destroyed 28 species of trees in Puerto Rico, as well as over 70 percent of the trees in an area of Frances Marion National Forest in South Carolina.

#7. Hurricane Charley - August, 2004

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $20,446,000,000
Total Deaths: 35
Category at U.S. Landfall: 4

The summer of 2004 was incredibly rough for Floridians. Tropical Storm Bonnie hit the coast of South Florida just 24 hours before Charley, a Category 4 hurricane, slammed into the Florida Keys. This was the first time two different tropical storms made landfall in the same state, on the same day.

#6. Hurricane Ivan - September, 2004

#5. Hurricane Wilma - October, 2005

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $35,548,000,000
Total Deaths: 87
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

2005 was reportedly the busiest Atlantic hurricane season ever recorded. One of the costliest hurricanes of 2005, Hurricane Wilma reached Category 5 status in the Yucatan Peninsula and caused $7.5 billion worth of damage in Mexico. While Wilma was not as strong when it entered the U.S., it did take out massive power grids, as well as water and sewer systems, in the Palm Beach, Fla. area.

#4. Hurricane Ike - September, 2008

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $41,269,000,000
Total Deaths: 195
Category at Landfall: 2

Hurricane Ike was the most intense hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic storm season. Ike proved to be a costly storm in terms of damages because it flooded giant swaths of farmland in Texas.

#3. Hurricane Andrew - August, 1992

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $44,754,000,000
Total Deaths: 65
Category at U.S. Landfall: 5

Hurricane Andrew was the worst hurricane in Florida's history. Andrew hit Florida with winds of up to 175 mph and nearly 14 inches of rain fell in the Miami-Dade area.

#2. Hurricane Sandy - October, 2012

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $73,686,000,000
Total Deaths: 233
Category at U.S. Landfall: 1

Although Hurricane Sandy fell to a Category 1 storm when it hit the East Coast, the results were catastrophic. Sandy touched down upon 24 U.S. states, and left nearly 3 million Americans without power. Hurricane Sandy also put New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on the map, and in 2015, he claimed that Hurricane Sandy prepared him to be president.

#1. Hurricane Katrina - August, 2005

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $151,655,000,000
Total Deaths: 1,836
Category at U.S. Landfall: 3

Hurricane Katrina is known for the extreme damage it caused in New Orleans when the levees broke and over 80 percent of the city flooded. Most of the deaths caused by Hurricane Katrina occurred after the storm passed, when the city flooded and emergency support failed to reach thousands of people. FEMA and President George Bush were heavily criticized for their perceived lackadaisical approach.


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