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The 15 most destructive hurricanes since 1950

Hurricane Patricia Seen From Space

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.

 

#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

 

Inflation-Adjusted Cost of Damages: $29,226,000,000
Total Deaths: 124
Category at U.S> Landfall: 3

Less than one month after Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Ivan swept through the Gulf of Mexico and into the U.S. According to Hurricane Science, Hurricane Ivan was one of the longest hurricanes ever recorded. It lasted 22 days, and cleared a path over 5,600 miles long.

#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.